While there has been great debate as to why Coach Derek Fisher only played superstar Candace Parker for 11 minutes in Game 3, here are some reasons this might have been.
Candace Parker has been a superstar for the Los Angeles Sparks and the WNBA for a long time. However, in the knockout game in Long Beach, Parker only played 11 minutes. Here are some reasons this may have been.
The first reason was Game 2. Parker scored only three points in 26 minutes in the loss on the Connecticut Sun home court. Surely the return home to play a knockout game would fire her up. Well it did, for a brief period in the first half. She had seven points in as many minutes. However, there were lots of little moments which showed the superstar was not leading this team.
In the first half, Parker attempted a quick pass to a cutting teammate from the top of the key. Alyssa Thomas, as she does, stole the pass and had the ball moving down court. Parker, gave up on the play as soon as the pass was stolen. This lead to a three on two break down the court and a Connecticut score. Thomas, who was a meter behind Parker beat her down the court by a considerable margin dishing the ball of to Courtney Williams for the easy two.
Surely, a starting big who is fit and switched on who has just turned the ball over pushes hard in an elimination game to get back on transition defense to help alter a shot. This is a horrible message from your franchise player to the rest of the team in a knockout game.
Then to make matters worse, her second half efforts were abysmal in the second half. The only time she looked engaged was when she had the ball in her hand. She only set one screen on offense for the period and did not even try for an offensive rebound. She did not appear to have and fire, Nneka Ogwumike showed the passion expected to try to get her team back into the game, Parker was …. missing, even when she was on the court.
On defense Parker was focussed on only her player. She was guarding Jonquel Jones so that might be understandable. However, when Connecticut switched Jones onto Ogwumike, Parker looked lost. ONe play she left the hot-shooting Jasmine Thomas wide open, and of course Thomas hit the three.
Only a few plays down the court, Parker was guarding Jones, stopping her from getting to the basket. She was not cutting off any passing lanes, despite how far they were from the hoop. Naturally Courtney Williams cut straight down the open lane and Jones found her easily for the simple bucket.
Fisher needed to find a unit who wanted to be on the court, who would play defense and play for each other. Parker did not look like she was engaged, if you can’t get up for an elimination game, then when are you going to be?