In case you haven't noticed, Candace Parker has struggled in her past three games and was at least partially responsible for the Sparks’ first home loss of the season on Thursday night. Hell, Saturday’s narrow road victory against the Storm was more in spite of the MVP candidate than because of her and marked her third straight poor performance.
All of this came just a week after winning the player of the week award, a three game stretch where she played as well as she ever has in her WNBA career. What do the numbers suggest about Parker’s sudden fall to Earth?
First off, in her past three games Parker has a true shooting percentage of just 38.9 percent. Despite not shooting worth a lick, Parker still racked up 30 rebounds over the same stretch; so it’s unfair to say that she universally with more than just her shot in the games against Phoenix and Atlanta.
Parker played 24 minutes (she's averaging 32 minutes a game) and shot just 3-11 from the field and grabbed only four rebounds. She didn’t block a single shot, had one of her shots rejected and turned the ball over twice. Head coach Carol Ross finally pulled the plug on Parker midway through the contest, only returning her to the floor in the crunch time minutes at the end of the game; and frankly, that was more out of respect for what Parker has done in the past than in anticipation of what she was going to contribute in that game.
Despite shooting poorly in the Phoenix game (6-19), Parker scored 25 points thanks largely to going to the free throw line 16 times. She had no such luck drawing contact in either the victory over Atlanta or Seattle. Strangely, her two worst games of the stretch are the only two where the Sparks picked up a win. Basketball, man.
So we know Parker shot very poorly in her past three games, but what about the stretch before that? In the three games before her slump, against San Antonio, Tulsa and Phoenix, Parker’s true shooting percentage was an unreal 66.6 percent. To say she was due a trip from the regression monster is an understatement. Parker is a great shooter, but her season true shooting percentage is a more manageable 55.9 percent. Her true shooting percentage over the six games I have discussed? 53.4 percent.
It's worth noting that Tulsa and San Antonio are the two worst eFG% defending teams in the league. Maybe it's not so weird she lit those teams up after all. Granted, she proceeded to shoot poorly against Phoenix and Seattle. The Storm is only better defensively than Tulsa and San Antonio. Atlanta is the only upper-echelon defensive team Parker has faced during her slump.
So maybe Parker’s going to be just fine after all. Or maybe she’s exhausted. Or maybe teams are game-planning against her better these three games than they have at any other point of the season. Who knows? I don’t. What I do know is that she wasn’t going to have a true shooting percentage of 66.6 percent the rest of the season -- the regression was coming. Sure, maybe it came severely, but perhaps now that Parker has hit rock bottom it’s time for her to rise back up.
She’ll have the chance to rebound against the Seattle Storm in a day game at home on Thursday.