In the midst of another impressive season, former WNBA MVP Candace Parker could bring home a second piece of hardware if she can keep it up.
Parker and the visiting Los Angeles Sparks aim for a third consecutive victory overall and a third straight win over the injury-plagued Phoenix Mercury on Saturday night.
After uncharacteristically missing out on the playoffs last season - due in no small part to Parker's injury-shortened year - Los Angeles (9-3) is looking like a contender in 2012 thanks largely to its now-healthy star. She ranks third in the league with 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, and is also averaging a WNBA-leading 3.1 blocks.
Parker had a huge game Wednesday in a 95-79 win over Tulsa, recording 33 points, a career-high nine blocks, eight rebounds and four assists.
"I'm going to be able to go home and whip out my thumb to my husband a little bit," said Parker, married to NBA player Shelden Williams. "He prides himself on the defensive end. It's always fun to be able to do that."
Los Angeles, which held the Shock to 37.2 percent shooting, improved to 9-1 when Parker blocks at least one shot.
"Unfortunately, for her, it's what people expect," coach Carol Ross said of Parker, the league's most valuable player as a rookie in 2008.
"She's got high expectations for herself. She's created a very high standard for excellence. Sometimes she makes 30-something points and nine blocks seem like a routine day at the office.
"For the rest of us, that could be a week's worth of basketball. She has great gifts."
Parker has been superb in two wins over the Mercury (3-7) this season. She had 27 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in a 99-88 road victory May 26 before recording 23, 10 and two during a 90-74 rout June 8.
While Phoenix was able to squeak by Eastern Conference-worst Washington 80-77 on Wednesday with just eight active players, keeping up with Los Angeles could prove much more difficult. Five-time WNBA scoring champion Diana Taurasi remains out with a strained left hip flexor while Candice Dupree, second on the team with 15.8 points per game, is uncertain to be available again due to a left knee contusion.
Playing all 40 minutes versus the Mystics, DeWanna Bonner had 19 points while Samantha Prahalis scored seven of her 15 in the final 2:02 to help Phoenix snap a three-game skid.
"We needed that win," said Bonner, averaging a team-best 19.1 points. "For us to have all these people hurt and out, and for us to come up with that win, it was great. It gave us a lot of confidence.
"These are great players that we're missing ... we just have to go out there and play hard."
Phoenix has dropped six of eight versus Western Conference foes, while Los Angeles has split six games on the road.