Cash scores 20 to help Storm beat Sparks in playoff opener 79-66

Swin Cash scored 20 points and Lauren Jackson added 17 to help the Seattle Storm beat the Los Angeles Sparks 79-66 in Game 1 of their WNBA Western Conference semifinal Wednesday night.

Camille Little scored 11 and Sue Bird added nine points and 12 assists for Seattle, which had the best record in the regular season at 28-6.

The Storm can wrap up the best-of-three series with a win Saturday at Los Angeles and avoid a sixth straight first-round exit.

"I don't think we're peaking right now, but we're in the best possible place where we need to be," Cash said. "To have players come off the bench and really contribute. ... and as long as our players keep getting a rhythm and getting better and better game by game, I like our chances."

Marie Ferdinand-Harris scored 18 points, Kristi Toliver and Tina Thompson each had 16 to lead fourth-seeded Los Angeles.

The Storm swept the regular season series against the Sparks 5-0, including a 76-75 win at home Saturday.

Since winning the WNBA title in 2004, the Storm have lost in the first round in each year — including the last two years against the Sparks when two-time MVP Jackson missed the postseason due to injuries.

Cash had four straight points to open the fourth quarter to give the Storm a 63-48 lead with 9:02 left.

"Swin was really energetic tonight," Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "She was active, getting out in transition and running the floor. She hit a couple of big baskets. She's just a very, very good competitor. She finds ways to get things done.

The Sparks responded with seven consecutive points to cut the lead to eight before Little and Tanisha Wright hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Jackson hit a jumper to push the lead to 16 with 3:02 left.

"We just can't wait until the fourth quarter against a team as good as Seattle," Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said. "We've got to come out of the starting blocks ready to play. We've got to be able to execute on both ends of the floor for 40 minutes and not 30. If we can come out with a great start then that will give us momentum into the rest of the game."

The Storm set a league record for home victories, finishing 17-0, and tied the record for overall wins set by Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001.