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Candace Parker looks sharp in Sparks' preseason opener

The Los Angeles Sparks finally began their preseason play tonight against the Atlanta Dream. Usually the Sparks start their preseason without their star Candace Parker, however this year she joined her team and lead the charge.

Andrew Bernstein, Getty Images

Pasadena, CA -- There hasn't been much information coming from Los Angeles on how their training camp has been going. Tonight however, fans finally got to see a glimpse of what the Sparks have, as they played host to the Atlanta Dream at Pasadena City College.

Although she has been in the league since 2008, it has been a few years since Candace Parker has been with the team to start their preseason. She wasted no time getting herself on the board hitting a quick step back jumper as an answer to Roneeka Hodges wide open three-pointer for Atlanta.

"I am excited because I have not played in a preseason game in awhile. So it is nice to get going and get us off to a good start," responded Parker on tonight's game.

Right out of a Dream timeout, it was the Sparks who came out with the electrifying energy.

Parker connected with Essence Carson for a layup, then Carson would make a three-point play after being fouled by Elizabeth Williams under the hoop. Then Ana Dabovic found Parker on back-to-back possessions for a layup then a three-pointer to extend the lead, 12-3.

Los Angeles kept up their momentum throughout the rest of the quarter, highlighted by a Dabovic no-look pass to Parker under the basket.

Parker would nail a three at the buzzer to end the first quarter that pushed the Sparks lead to 31-12. The entire game, it was obvious that she was locked-in, on a mission -- and definitely showed she is ready to lead this team in the upcoming season.

The start of the second quarter was a significantly slower pace than the first. Atlanta's Tiffany Hayes was taken to the line on back-to-back possessions making three of four free throws.

With careless fouls on both sides, Matee Ajavon and Reshanda Gray would pick up their third personal fouls for Atlanta.

With 1:05 left in the second, Alana Beard got her fourth steal of the night, finishing off the possession with a Sparks layup. Then Los Angeles rookie, Brianna Butler, knocked down a three and was followed by Rebecca Tobin's two-pointer to end the half putting the Sparks up 54-31.

Once the third quarter began, Parker continued to keep her foot on the gas, as she would open up the third with a nice hook layup, followed by a jumper to extend the Sparks' lead to 25 points.

But the Dream did not give up, as Hodges responded with a deep three before Williams put up a quick four points. With a precise pass from Carla Cortijo, Hodges would knock down a three. Cortijo would connect with Holmes for a Dream three-pointer cutting the Sparks' lead basket by basket.

Atlanta trailed by only 10 points at the end of the third, 72-62.

With what started off as a strong appearance from the Sparks', things tailed off in the fourth, mainly because a lot of the main contributors were no longer in the game.

Dream rookie Courtney Walker started to show some good flashes, as she hit a layup, which made it an eight-point game with nine minutes of play left.

Right off a twenty-second timeout, it was Cortijo with a much-needed Atlanta jumper. Cortijo had nine points, six assists and two steals for the night.

The Sparks' tried to regain control but Walker would sink a jumper off the assist from Cortijo after being fouled by Whitney Knight. With 5:42 left to play, the Dream only trailed by seven points.

But the Sparks' KK Houser hit a crucial Sparks' three-pointer with 4:03 left in the game, and then Crystal Bradford hit another three-point shot.

As the clock dwindled down, Atlanta wasn't able to mount the comeback. The Sparks defeated the Dream, 88-80.

Even with the win, Parker knows the team can't rely on strictly their outside shooting.

"Tonight the jump shot was falling, but some nights it is not going to be like that, it's going to be more on the block more going to the basket."

She ended the night with an overall game performance of 22 points, three assists and three rebounds. Beard finished with 15 points, two assists, three rebounds and four steals.

Los Angeles' next preseason game is Monday night against San Antonio.