Sky rookie Rebekah Gardner gets her first double-double in 80-68 win over Sparks

Without a point from Candace Parker, the Sky earned their 18th victory of the season. Parker had a 381-game scoring streak snapped, but she had 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal.

SHARE Sky rookie Rebekah Gardner gets her first double-double in 80-68 win over Sparks
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Rebekah Gardner drives to the basket during the Sky’s game Thursday against the Sparks in Los Angeles.

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LOS ANGELES — Thursday night could have been Candace Parker’s last time playing in Crypto.com Arena against her former team, the Sparks. We won’t know until the offseason, when she says she’ll know whether she’ll play in her 16th year in the WNBA.

Without a point from Parker, the Sky earned their 18th victory of the season, beating the Sparks 80-68. They shot 48.5% from the field and 42.1% from three-point range. Parker had a 381-game scoring streak snapped, but she had 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal.

General manager/coach James Wade leaned heavily on his second unit. Parker (27 minutes) was the only Sky starter to play more than 20 minutes. The Sky’s bench scored more than half of the team’s points and outscored the Sparks’ bench 43-14.

“We don’t have a player averaging over 28 minutes,” Wade said. “Long term, it’s good. There won’t be any overuse. We try to balance it out, and we need everyone to feel important. You never know whose night it is. Tonight it was our 32-year-old rookie’s night.”

Wade was referring to Rebekah Gardner, who recorded her first career double-double in front of her home crowd, finishing with a game-high 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Azurá Stevens added 14 off the bench, and Kahleah Copper had 12 points.

Gardner, a UCLA grad, has been one of the best stories of the season. She went undrafted after graduating in 2012, and after a 10-year career overseas, she made her WNBA debut this year with the Sky. Wade said she belongs in Rookie of the Year conversations.

“It’s an honor for my name to come up in that conversation,” Gardner said. “Whatever happens, it happens. I’m really just here to play great for the team.”

With under four minutes to play in the third quarter, Courtney Vandersloot went up for a layup and fell as she came down, hitting her head on Gardner’s knee. She laid on the floor clutching her head and neck for multiple possessions, while the Sky scored two points playing four-on-five.

During a stoppage of play, Vandersloot was taken out and walked to the locker room, where she was evaluated. Wade said he didn’t know whether or not she was evaluated for a concussion, just that she was looked at by the Sky’s training staff. She returned to the bench in the fourth quarter after being ruled eligible to return to the game. The Sky held on to a double-digit lead throughout the fourth, and Vandersloot did not reenter. She finished with five points, four assists and two rebounds in 20 minutes.

“She bumped her head, but she came out to the bench and was evaluated,” Wade said. “I think she’ll be OK. She’s feeling OK. She was on the bench during the game, I talked to her and she said she was fine.”

Wade said he chose not to play Vandersloot in the final minutes because the game was in control by the time she returned to the bench.

The Sparks were without their second-leading scorer, Liz Cambage, who is in health and safety protocols, and Chennedy Carter, who is out with a knee injury. Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 16 points and eight rebounds. Her sister, Chiney, had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

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