Tina Thompson hit a key 3-pointer with 5:44 remaining and the Los Angeles Sparks went on to a 70-63 victory over the Seattle Storm in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series Wednesday night.
Thompson led the third-seeded Sparks with 16 points. Lisa Leslie added 14 points and 10 rebounds in what might have been the final home game of her storied career before she retires at season's end. Candace Parker had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Swin Cash led the second-seeded Storm with 24 points after missing the final two games of the regular season because of her grandmother's death. Suzy Batkovic-Brown added 16 points and Tanisha Wright 13.
Sue Bird was held to four points after missing the final three games of the regular season because of a sore neck. The Storm was without All-Star Lauren Jackson, who is out indefinitely because of a stress fracture in her lower back.
Since winning the WNBA championship in 2002, the Storm has never advanced past the first round, losing the last four years, including to the Sparks in three games last year. The teams split their four regular season meetings, with each winning on their home courts.
Game 2 in the best-of-3 series is Friday in Seattle.
A 3-pointer by Wright left Seattle trailing 58-54 with 6:12 remaining. Thompson was called for an offensive foul _ her fourth _ but things quickly turned around for Los Angeles.
The Sparks outscored the Storm 10-2 to take a 68-56 lead with 3:04 left. Thompson launched the spurt with the 3-pointer and had a three-point play before Parker's 3-pointer ended it.
Cash scored Seattle's final five points. They now must win two games at home to advance.
The Storm closed the third on a 9-4 run to trail 52-47, helped by 10 points from Cash in the quarter.
Seattle recovered from an 18-point deficit in the first quarter to trail 34-28 at halftime. The Sparks didn't score their first basket until 6 1/2 minutes into the second period, and were outscored 22-12 in the quarter.
Getting balanced scoring, the Sparks raced to a 22-6 lead in the opening quarter, when the Storm shot 11 percent from the floor and committed seven turnovers.
The Sparks were favored to win the WNBA championship at the start of the season, then Leslie and Parker missed 19 games combined and the team staggered through the early going before going 10-3 to close the regular season.
Besides Leslie, Sparks coach Michael Cooper is leaving at season's end to coach the women's team at Southern California.
Leslie's husband, Michael Lockwood, and their 2-year-old daughter, Lauren, wearing a gold top in the Sparks' colors, sat courtside. Derek Fisher and Josh Powell, along with new teammate Ron Artest, of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers were there, sitting near Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, the team the Lakers defeated for their 15th title in June.