Los Angeles Sparks standouts Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver led the West to a 102-98 victory over the East in the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday in Uncasville, Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena.
Parker notched 23 points, which is an All-Star Game record, while Toliver scored 19 of her 21 points after halftime to lead the charge. The West squad won the fourth quarter 28-17, and that proved to be the difference in this contest.
Candace Parker named MVP as her 23 Pts sets record for most scored in WNBA All-Star Game. West beats East, 102-98.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 27, 2013
Shelden Williams, a former Duke star and NBA player, was proud of his wife's accomplishment:
New all star record for @candace_parker!!!!— Shelden Williams (@SheldenWilliams) July 27, 2013
What was also impressive is that Parker pulled down 11 rebounds and added three assists in her maiden All-Star appearance. One of the dimes came on this beautiful no-look pass:
In winning the MVP award, Parker also joined some pretty prestigious company in the Sparks' franchise history:
Candace Parker: 3rd Sparks player to win All-Star Game MVP, joining Lisa Leslie and Nikki Teasley— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 27, 2013
Seattle Storm forward Tina Thompson replaced Brittney Griner on the roster in what was the 38-year-old's final All-Star Game. Although Thompson—who helped the Houston Comets to four straight WNBA titles—missed all five of her shots from the field, she received a warm reception from fans.
Diana Taurasi had some glowing words for Thompson in the postgame press conference:
"Tina was the best player I've ever played with hands down" - Diana Taurasi post game pic.twitter.com/8Gy3fo6B2W— WNBA (@WNBA) July 27, 2013
As for the East, it was a relatively balanced scoring effort, though no one approached the point totals of Parker or Toliver.
Chicago Sky guard Epiphanny Prince and Ivory Latta of the Washington Mystics led five players in double figures with 15 points apiece, while center Tina Charles struggled in making just five of her 16 shots.
Afterward, New York Liberty star Cappie Pondexter was pleased with the turnout in the American Northeast, as attendance numbered 9,323 according to ESPN:
In the 10 previous contests, the West had won seven times, but the East had begun to turn the tide, having won on three of the past four occasions.
It took the best efforts of a deserving first-time All Star in Parker and her teammate Toliver to rally the West back in the fourth quarter, and it was just enough to reverse the recently poor trend in this premier showcase of the WNBA's best talent.
Let's take a look at some player grades, based on their level of stardom and their performance in Saturday's showdown.
Candace Parker, F, West: A+
What a debut it was for Parker in the All-Star Game. Her record point total was enough to warrant the best grade possible, yet she did play a solid all-around game.
Parker was surgically efficient in sinking 10 of 13 field-goal attempts; she also matched West teammate Rebecca Benson for the top total rebounds.
Combine those with the highlight reel assist, and it's easy to see why Parker gets this grade.
Cappie Pondexter, G, East: C
For a player who normally averages somewhere around 20 points per contest, it wasn't the best day for Pondexter. Although she was charged with distributing duties and dished out an East-high five assists, her shooting performance was rather forgettable.
Pondexter drained two of her six three-pointers, but she missed on her other three attempts from the floor and had three turnovers. She also missed a three that could have given the East the lead in the final minute.
The level of competition is somewhat to blame, as is the lack of chemistry with unfamiliar players despite the talent level. However, by almost any measure, Pondexter can certainly play better than her showing in Connecticut indicated.
Kristi Toliver, G, West: A
Two clutch free throws late in the game by Toliver made it a two-possession affair, rendering a possible comeback by the East essentially impossible.
Toliver was simply sensational from the third quarter onward, and she hit on three of her six three-pointers. Maya Moore was the only other player on the West to hit multiple times from beyond the arc, but she needed seven attempts to do so.
If not for a phenomenal outing by Parker, it could have been Toliver joining the previous Los Angeles MVP winners in All-Star Game lore.
Erika De Souza, F, East: A
The Brazilian veteran—who plays for the Atlanta Dream—came off the bench, yet made a massive impact on the game. When De Souza was on the court, the East were up 11 points.
As another late addition to the All-Star Game, she nearly didn't participate:
No one else on the East had as much of a positive affect as De Souza did, and when Parker was in for the West squad, they were plus-18. De Souza stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists without committing a turnover.