Candace Parker fights through pregame ankle injury to beat the Mercury in Game 1



Parker suffered a freak injury during shootaround.

Candace Parker turned her ankle during warmups before the Los Angeles Sparks’ first playoff game of the 2017 season against the Phoenix Mercury. She went to the locker room immediately after, but she played for the entire game in L.A.’s 79-66 win.


It was painful to watch last season’s Finals MVP grimace her way through all 40 minutes in which she didn’t fully looked herself. Of course, Parker’s “self” entails high standards.

She scored 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting, but after each layup, the camera panned to her face, which quickly revealed the pain she was playing through. The injury clearly hurt her lift as well, as it took until the final frame for her to knock down a jumper.

Head coach Brian Agler was interviewed during the game, and said the injury was never a topic of discussion. Parker knew she could sub out in favor of Jantel Lavender if needed, but that never happened.

After the game, Parker said, “I’ve been battle-tested my whole career with injuries. This was nothing new.” She didn’t seem phased, but we don’t know how she’ll feel by Thursday, when the teams are scheduled to play Game 2.

Parker was a true superstar playing through discomfort.

As long as she didn’t hurt herself worse, this was an admirable performance from the Sparks’ star. She came in the clutch with a three-pointer at the top of the fourth quarter that helped create some separation from the Mercury. Her role as a playmaker was key all game, too, as her passes were on-point as usual. She finished with three assists.

Parker may have been most important on the defensive end, as she helped contain Mercury center Brittney Griner, and had five fouls to show for it after the physical battle. Her pressure forced Griner into a number of fadeaways that fell flat. Parker and her teammate, Nneka Ogwumike, spent the duration of the game in foul trouble, but outlasted Griner, who caught her sixth with five minutes to spare in the fourth quarter. That helped seal the win, as Phoenix lost its top offensive option.

Parker has less than 48 hours to heal before Game 2. Can the Sparks win if she isn’t 100 percent?

If Game 1 was any indication, Parker’s health should play a real factor in how close Game 2 is. Griner was unstoppable in the first half, and it took the tandem of Parker and Ogwumike’s perfectly timed double-teams to cause any trouble in the natural rotation of the 6’9 center’s shot. Without Parker close to full strength, Griner could go off for 30 points or more.

It also took an anomaly to keep Phoenix fully out of this game.

WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Alana Beard was brilliant in holding Diana Taurasi in check to a playoff career-low six points. As spectacular as Beard is, the expectation can’t be for Taurasi to have that little an impact again, though. Look for her to let loose in Game 2.

Maybe Parker’s ankle will heal fine, and she’ll be ready to go on Thursday. But if she’s not 100 percent, Phoenix looks poised to take advantage.