Hoffman saves best for her former team, explodes with season-high effort against Indiana

LOS ANGELES – Ebony Hoffman exploding for a season-best 21 points against her former team Thursday night doesn’t seem so far-fetched. She said it herself afterwards: "It’s always nice to play well against your former team."

But Hoffman explains her 7 for 11 shooting, three treys and 100 percent made free throws in the Sparks’ 75-70 win over the Indiana Fever with six words: the return of teammate Candace Parker.

Hoffman had started in place of Parker since June 26 after the star forward tore the lateral meniscus in her knee. Parker returned to the court for Tuesday’s game, and Thursday was back in the starting lineup, playing for all but 30 seconds. Hoffman said Parker’s presence takes pressure off of her to always be under the basket.

"I’m back in my comfortable spot: being able to roam," Hoffman said.

And roam she did. Hoffman paced the slow-starting Sparks with seven points in the first period and eight in the second, including three three-point shots. She was all over the key.

"Candace draws a lot of attention," Hoffman said. "She constantly draws the double-team, so we got a lot of open layups. She’s so tall, she’s just finding people to give the ball to – I know she had several assists tonight."

Parker put up 18 points in Los Angeles’ takedown of the Eastern Conference-leading Fever (18-8). Tamika Catchings and Erin Phillips each had 16 points for Indiana, and Tangela Smith added 14.

The Sparks lead throughout the third quarter and for the beginning of the fourth, but consecutive three-point shots by Catchings and Katie Douglas put the Fever in the lead at 6:39. After a Douglas layup over a minute later, Los Angeles went on a 13-4 run to close out the game, including almost four minutes when Indiana was held scoreless.

Douglas finally broke the spell with two free throws at 20.6 seconds left. Parker was fouled next, and she split a pair of free throws. Catchings then missed a wide-open layup under the basket, and on Hoffman’s rebound she was fouled. She made both free throws, and did so again seconds later when she was fouled again. Her shots were the final points of the contest.

"We stalled down the stretch," Phillips said. "We missed some shots we usually make."

Parker acknowledged that her team started too slowly, but said that personally, she felt good.

"My legs feel good," she said. "I really feel confident in my knee, and I’m not hesitant in doing anything I would have done before."

Parker said neither she nor Coach Joe Bryant had planned for her to play virtually the entire time during her second game back, but it just happened that way.

"He said to talk to him and tell him when I was getting tired," Parker said. "But I felt strong."

The 10-14 Sparks, still trying to get in playoff position, hit the road to play Minnesota, Tulsa and Washington. They play the league-leading Lynx on Saturday night.

Indiana returns home to face Washington on Sunday.

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