LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker won the WNBA MVP on Thursday, making her the fifth player in league history to receive the award twice.
Parker accepted the trophy from league president Laurel Richie before the Sparks took on the Phoenix Mercury in the opener of their Western Conference playoff series.
“I was shocked. I was so focused and into playoff mode,” Parker said about learning the news in a phone call from Richie. “I’m really humbled and wasn’t expecting this because of the great competition.”
Parker edged out Minnesota’s Maya Moore and Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne in one of the closest ballots in league history. Parker finished with 234 points, Moore had 218 and Delle Donne 189. It’s the closest the top two players have been in the voting since Sheryl Swoopes edged Lauren Jackson by two points in 2005.
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Parker and Moore each received 10 first-place votes from the 39-member media panel.
The 27-year-old forward averaged 17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in helping the Sparks (24-10) finish second in the West.
It’s the second MVP award for Parker, who won it her rookie year in 2008. Parker also won the All-Star Game MVP this past July.
Parker, still looking for her first WNBA championship, joined Jackson, Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper as players with multiple MVP awards.
Delle Donne, who averaged 18.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and shot 93 percent from the free-throw line to help Chicago make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, will be named rookie of the year, The Associated Press reported.
Mercury 86, at Sparks 75
Diana Taurasi scored 30 points and Phoenix rallied in the second half to beat Los Angeles in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Candice Dupree added 16 points and DeWanna Bonner had 13 for the Mercury, which snapped the Sparks’ six-game home winning streak. Phoenix has dealt the Sparks two of their three losses at Staples Center this season.
Parker led the Sparks with 28 points, and Lindsey Harding added 16. Nneka Ogwumike had 14 rebounds.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is Saturday in Phoenix.
Mystics 71, at Dream 56
Ivory Latta scored 14 points and Kia Vaughn and Crystal Langhorne each had 12 to help Washington beat Atlanta in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. Game 2 is Saturday in Washington.
Washington, in the playoffs for the first time in three years, snapped an eight-game postseason skid.
Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, the two-time WNBA scoring champion, finished with 20 points despite missing 12 of her first 14 attempts from the field.