Down 2-0 to the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Semifinals, the Los Angeles Sparks played out the last quarter and a half of their season Sunday night without Candace Parker, to the surprise of everyone involved, including Candace Parker.
The longtime Sparks forward put up four points on six shots, and with almost six minutes to go in the third, head coach Derek Fisher benched her for good. This season marked a significant downturn in scoring volume and efficiency for the 33-year-old and two-time MVP, but Parker remains the team’s de facto leader. She seemed baffled by Fisher’s decision and could be seen on the bench mouthing, “Why would you do that now?”
After the game, Parker noted that in terms of her health, “physically, mentally—everything’s fine.” When asked if she was surprised not to get back in the game, she told the reporter that was a question “for Fish.”
Fisher also benched the Sparks’ top two scorers, Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray, for the entirety of the fourth quarter. He was asked about his personnel choices after the game.
“It wasn’t an injury or any specific—like, this is why I’m not going to play Candace, but just trying to find energy, find spark, find physicality and things that we just were continuing to try and to search for throughout the course of the game,” said Fisher.
The search for “fresh bodies” didn’t pan out, and a 19-point deficit at the outset of the fourth quarter became a 22-point defeat by the end. The Sun won 78-56 and completed their 3-0 semifinal sweep, winning the series by a margin of 57 points.