Sparks beat Storm 70-63 in WNBA playoff openerSep 17, 2009 - 5:29 AM By BETH HARRIS AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES(AP) -- Even without All-Star Lauren Jackson and Katie Gearlds, the Seattle Storm were no pushover.
Tina Thompson hit a key 3-pointer with 5:44 remaining and the Los Angeles Sparks went on to a 70-63 victory in Game 1 of the teams' Western Conference playoff series Wednesday night.
"Although they didn't have Jackson and Gearlds, it doesn't make them a bad team," Thompson said. "(Swin) Cash was very aggressive and that had a lot to do with Jackson not being there."
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.
"It's like, `Don't have any regrets, don't leave the court feeling like you could've done better," Leslie said.
That's what she was thinking in the first half, though.
"I just (stunk)," she said. "I was being really soft and not finishing on my shots inside. They weren't really double-teaming me that hard. There were times we didn't play smart basketball."
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.
"My neck feels OK. I was able to get some rest and recover. It is what it is; you've got to play through it," she said.
The Storm were without Jackson, who is out indefinitely because of a stress fracture in her lower back. Gearlds sat out with an injured left knee.
Storm coach Brian Agler said Jackson would not play when the best-of-3 series moves to Seattle for Game 2 Friday night. He said her back has improved, but she is still "multiple weeks" away from returning.
"This team is a little more dangerous without Lauren because with her you know what offensive schemes are going to be," Leslie said.
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.
"I feel really good about going to Seattle. We're definitely going to have to play on top of our game but it's doable," Parker said. "The game is going to be a lot more physical up 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.
"There were quite a few big plays," Thompson said. "It was a little bit of all of us. The three-point play I had definitely got us excited."
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.
"We had a lot of turnovers that led them to get out in transition and get some easy buckets," Bird said. "Along with that, we fouled them entirely too much. We put them on the free-throw line 30 times. You can't give up 25 points to this team just on free throws. If you eliminate half of that, it's a different game."
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.
FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
SEATTLE 6 22 19 16 63
LOS ANGELES 22 12 18 18 70 FINAL
HIGH SCORERS: SEA - SWIN CASH 24, SUZY BATKOVIC 16,
TANISHA WRIGHT 13
LOS - TINA THOMPSON 16, LISA LESLIE 14,
CANDACE PARKER 13
Sep 17 12:20 AM
LOS ANGELES 22 END, 1ST QTR
Sep 16 10:38 PM
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