Winning back-to-back WNBA championships doesn’t come easily, just ask Candace Parker
Since the Los Angeles Sparks won consecutive titles in 2001 and ’02, 13 of the 20 reigning champions didn’t make it back to the Finals; seven returned and lost. One of those seven was Parker’s 2017 Sparks team.
Halfway through the regular season, the Sky sit atop the WNBA Eastern Conference standings, to the surprise of no one in the organization.
The team is playing how it expected to last year, and as the All-Star break approaches, the Sky’s goal of winning back-to-back championships is coming into focus. One player who has come close to repeating is Candace Parker.
“Every year is different, and every team is different,” Parker said. “But I do know it has a lot to do with focus, moments and understanding the value in it.”
After winning her first title with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016, Parker led them back to the WNBA finals in 2017.
Since the Sparks won consecutive titles in 2001 and ’02, 13 of the 20 reigning champions didn’t make it back to the Finals; seven returned and lost. One of those seven was Parker’s 2017 Sparks team.
With the core of their 2016 championship team intact, the Sparks had a 2-1 series lead against the Lynx and home-court advantage in the best-of-five series. Sylvia Fowles, who will retire at the end of this season, had a double-double for the Lynx, leading all scorers with 22 points.
Parker had 11 points and eight rebounds.
“Losing that game and Game 4 in 2016 allowed me to really focus last year when we had a home Game 4,” Parker said.
The mentality that Parker has is that every day and every practice could win the Sky a championship. This team has found its stride and is playing like a title-contending team at the halfway mark.
General manager/coach James Wade has been able to establish his offense, showing that his players can exploit teams in multiple ways. The Sky lead the league in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and points in the paint. They are second in points per game and three-point percentage.
In their 91-83 win Wednesday over the Connecticut Sun, the Sky shot 83.3% in the first half, setting a league record for field-goal percentage in a half. No player on the Sky is averaging more than 14 points per game, but every player is contributing. Kahleah Copper leads the team with 14.1 points per game; Li Yueru is averaging two in five minutes per game.
The Sky are the deepest team in the league. They went 10-2 in June and have the potential to extend their winning streak to seven games heading into the All-Star break.
But it’s just the midpoint of the season. No team has ever been crowned a champion halfway through.
“There’s moments where I know, ‘All right, y’all, we have an opportunity going into the All-Star break. We can mess it up or go in and take care of business,’ ” Parker said. “We’re excited to be first in the league, but it’s midseason. It’s not how you start; we realized that last year. It’s how you finish.”