INDIANAPOLIS – With star center Candace Parker sitting out the last three games with a right wrist injury, the Los Angeles Sparks asked Jantel Lavender to take a bigger role in the offense.
When Parker returned to the floor Thursday night against the defending champion Indiana Fever, Lavender didn't forget what she learned during Parker's absence, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a reserve role to lead Los Angeles to a 74-64 win over the Fever.
Lavender has scored in double figures in three consecutive games. She was an efficient 9-of-13 from the field against the Fever (10-11), scoring 12 of her 18 points in the first half.
Parker added 17 points and six rebounds for Sparks (15-7), who won their third straight game.
"I just wanted to come in like I started the game," Lavender said. "Candace is a great player. I just did the little things, rebounded and set screens."
The Sparks used a 13-0 run to open up a 32-13 lead early in the second quarter. After the lopsided first quarter, the Fever outscored Los Angeles 51-47 the rest of the way, getting within 53-48 in the second half, but couldn't climb all the way out of the hole they dug.
"We weren't really focused and ready physically or mentally in that first quarter, and they jumped on us," Fever coach Lin Dunn said. "Then we played even the whole rest of the game. We just didn't seem like we had the energy we needed to compete with them."
Whenever Indiana threatened, the Sparks ran a set play and got an easy basket.
Led by Lavender and Parker, Los Angeles scored 50 points in the paint.
"Lindsey (Harding) did a great job of getting us in sets where she knew we could score," Lavender said. "It just came down to us really executing and making sure we got to the end of the play, and we did that a lot."
Tamika Catchings led Indiana with 17 points, and Erlana Larkins added 11 points, 13 rebounds and six steals. The Fever shot just 34 percent from the field.