Candace Parker’s vintage playoff performances lead for Sky

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Candace Parker has a go-to answer when questions about her health arise.

“I’m fine,” she says. “I’m just old.”

At 36, she’s not old for long, but given the wear and tear she’s endured over a 15-year professional career, it’s understandable that she describes herself as such. As the years have progressed, so has her off-field routine. The 28.5 minutes she averages in the postseason is just a fraction of what she spends in the game. Ice baths and team treatments are given, but Parker also gets acupuncture and massages and works with personal trainers outside of heaven.

As a result, she is playing some of the best basketball of her career, whether she wants to admit it or not.

“I think the younger CP was more dominant,” Parker said Wednesday after finishing with 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal in the Sky’s 85-77 win over the Sun in Game 2 of their semifinal series.

Through five postseason games, Parker is averaging 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.2 steals in under 30 minutes. In her 13 WNBA postseasons, the only one in which she averaged fewer minutes than this was in 2019. Her highest postseason scoring average was 28.8 points in 2012.

In the postseason, where she plays five or more games, she has averaged more points just three times. This is her second-best postseason rebounding average, and she has never averaged more assists or blocks in the postseason. Her 11.2 plus/minus rating is also the highest of her playoff career.

“She will do everything in her power to get another championship,” Sky coach and general manager James Wade said.

While Parker helped Sky even the series on Wednesday in Chicago, 40-year-old Serena Williams was in Queens, New York, eliminating No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round of the US Open. Parker got a glimpse of Williams’ fight during the break and took inspiration from her performance – especially her mental approach. During her postgame news conference, she joked that you can’t teach a dog new tricks, but said that both she and Williams have mastered how to improve the tricks already in their arsenals late in their careers.

During the Sky’s first-round series against the Liberty, Parker fell into a three-point shooting slump, going 1-for-9. But her overall impact never wavered, averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds through the Sky’s first three postseason games.

Her coach flew in from Los Angeles to spend last Friday night prior to the semifinals working with her on her three-point shot. She went 6-for-13 from deep in the first two games against the Sun.

“Even if she has less stats, she does so many good things on the court, like being a great leader,” teammate Emma Meesseman said. “I don’t think there are enough words [to describe her skill].”

As with Williams, retirement is a topic of conversation with Parker. She will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. But unlike Williams, she has not spoken about her future plans. The most important thing is to be mobile for your children when they grow up.

“I want to be able to beat my daughter and son [in basketball] to the point of destroying them,” she said.

Going out on top is another priority. The defending champion Sky are two wins away from advancing to the WNBA Finals for the second year in a row and the third time in team history. It would mark Parker’s fourth final.

Going out with back-to-back titles might just be the exit she’s playing for.

“It’s not fun when you’re not what you’re used to being,” Parker said. “I think you want out before that.”



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