When a player like Candace Parker is suddenly scratched from the starting lineup, you would think that would be good news for the opposing team.
Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman wouldn't agree.
She wanted the Los Angeles Sparks star and former Naperville Central great to play her normal role Friday night at Allstate Arena. But Parker, nursing an ankle injury from earlier in the week, started on the bench.
"I'm kind of weird about that," Chatman said. "I hate when star players sit out. I think their teammates execute better, make extra passes, just subconsciously do things a little bit crisper because you're missing a superstar."
The Sparks did just that in starting strong, and then they stayed strong as Parker worked her way into the rotation.
Los Angeles, never without the lead, rolled to a 102-88 victory over the Sky. The Sparks (3-3) were up by as many as 23 points and, by far, scored the most points by Sky opponent this season.
The Sky (5-2) had given up a season-high 82 points in its most recent game a week earlier, but scored 101 points to get a victory over Connecticut.
"It was us mentally not being there," Sky forward Tamera Young, who scored a season-high 15 points, said of the defense. "We were a step slow in every aspect and they were able to capitalize on it."
The Sparks played pretty team basketball, getting assists on 31 of their 43 field goals. They also often beat the Sky down the floor in transition for easy layups. By halftime, they had scored 61 points, the most ever in a half by a Sky opponent.
Parker, playing in front of a healthy contingent of local family and friends, wound up scoring 17 points in about 22 minutes. She also had 6 assists.
Forward Nneka Ogwumike and former Sky guard Kristi Toliver led Los Angeles with 18 points apiece. Forward Alana Beard chipped in with 14 points.
"We came out with a lot of energy," said Parker, who embraced her 5-year-old daughter Laila at half-court after the game. "We were hitting shots, we were sharing the ball. The game just went for us."
The game went for Sky forward Elena Delle Donne, too. She scored a career-high 33 points, which included a WNBA record 16-for-16 performance at the free-throw line. Delle Donne also pulled down 14 rebounds.
But besides Delle Donne and Young, no other starter reached double figures for the Sky, which is still waiting on the return of star guard Epiphanny Prince. Out for personal reasons, Prince was in uniform but did not play.
Reserve point guard Jamierra Faulkner finished with 13 points.
"This is something we've got to learn from," Delle Donne said. "But luckily about this league, we have a game tomorrow. We can right this wrong pretty quickly."
The Sky is in Atlanta for a 6 p.m. tip-off today.