In her third WNBA game, Los Angeles Sparks phenom Candace Parker put together a performance unlike any other in league history. After that game, however, the Indiana Fever were celebrating a close victory thanks to what they considered a successful defensive scheme against the rookie forward.
Parker and the Sparks look to avenge that loss and avoid dropping back-to-back games for the first time this season as they host the Fever on Sunday night.
When these teams first met May 29, Parker had 16 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, six blocked shots and five steals, becoming the first player in WNBA history to record at least five in each of those categories in a game.
However, Indiana's defense held Parker scoreless in the first half and forced her into committing seven turnovers and shooting 7-for-18 from the field in the Fever's 82-78 victory - the only double-overtime game played in the league this season.
"She's a great talent," Indiana forward Katie Douglas said of Parker, whom she guarded for most of the game. "She's obviously going to be a star, if not already a star, in this league. She does so many different things - I've never seen a player like her. She doesn't have to score to play a key role on her team.
"I think overall, though, we did a good job. We got into her and frustrated her. It wasn't just me, it was everybody helping, collapsing and trying to make things uncomfortable for her all night."
That defeat was the first of the season for Los Angeles (8-3), which has the best record in the Western Conference.
The Sparks, however, lost 77-75 to second-place San Antonio on Friday after a late rally fueled by Parker fell short. The 6-foot-4 forward out of Tennessee scored 12 of her 27 points in the fourth quarter and added nine rebounds, but it wasn't enough to extend the team's win streak to five games.
"It was a frustrating game, obviously," Parker said. "We were down, but we've been down before. I thought we kept fighting, especially in the fourth quarter, but it was too late."
The Fever (6-5) were the victims of a successful fourth-quarter comeback Friday. After seemingly taking control late in the third, Indiana allowed Seattle to score 18 of the first 20 points in the final period - including 16 straight - en route to a 78-70 defeat.
Despite the disheartening loss, the Fever are encouraged by the progress of forward Tamika Catchings, a standout at Tennessee four years before Parker's arrival in Knoxville. After missing the first eight games of the season while recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon, the five-time All-Star has seen increased playing time in each of her three contests.
Catchings was held to six points and 2-for-7 shooting Friday, but she also had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in 17 minutes.
"I'm coming along slowly but surely," said Catchings, who has led the Fever in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in each of her six seasons since the club selected her third overall in the 2001 draft.
"I've come a long ways, but I've got a long way to go, too."
Catchings, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, will likely be asked to help contain Parker, freeing Douglas to contribute more offensively. Douglas is averaging a career-high 17.6 points and had a team-high 25 in Indiana's win over Los Angeles in May.