In Tina Thompson’s final homecoming, Storm picks up a win
Forward scores 11 of her 23 points in the first quarter to get Seattle going early. The win allows the Storm to strengthen its hold on a playoff spot heading into the All-Star break.
Special to The Seattle Times
LOS ANGELES — In her final game in her hometown, Tina Thompson performed at vintage standards offensively on Thursday at Staples Center.
Thompson set the pace. The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, who will retire after the season, scored 11 points in the first quarter and finished with 23 points — her second-highest total of the season.
The veteran’s performance punctuated a day in which she was honored in a pregame ceremony and was named to replace the injured Brittney Griner on the Western Conference’s team for Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game.
“I’m really happy for her,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “Inside, she was probably looking forward to coming back and playing here one last time.”
Thompson, however, deemphacized the significance of her performance in her final homecoming.
“That’s just not how I look at the game,” she said. “It’s more important that we win, that we’re getting a sense of who we are and how we want to play. That, for me, means more than anything.”
The Storm (7-10) did more than break an eight-game losing streak over three seasons against Los Angeles (12-6).
Seattle increased its lead over Tulsa and San Antonio for the fourth and final playoff spot in the WNBA’s Western Conference to 2½ games entering the all-star break.
The Storm made seven of its first 11 shots, grabbed 14 rebounds in the first quarter, held the Sparks to one rebound in that period and built a 30-12 advantage 1:32 into the second quarter.
Los Angeles narrowed the deficit to 47-46 with 2:56 left in the third period. But Noelle Quinn’s two free throws and Shekinna Stricklen’s driving lay-in extended the lead to 51-46 with 1:07 remaining in the quarter.
The Sparks had one final surge. They used a 10-0 blitz to close the margin to 63-61 with 2:25 to play. But Camille Little’s underhanded lay-in culminated a 5-0 spurt that gave the Storm a 68-61 lead with 52.2 seconds to go.
“We finished off plays,” Thompson said. “We executed offensively once we got stops defensively. In that game at home, we felt like we just didn’t execute in moments we should have.”
The Storm’s defense held Los Angeles to season lows in field goals (19) and shooting (31.1 percent). Tanisha Wright and Temeka Johnson limited the Sparks’ Kristi Toliver to 10 points until Toliver made a three-point shot at the buzzer.
“The key is Kristi,” Thompson said. “If she’s making those shots, she’s opening up the floor. She has a pretty awesome ability of just getting her rhythm offensively. When she gets going, it’s pretty tough.
“My hat is off to Tanisha, as well as Temeka. They did a great job just staying in her space and not letting her get comfortable.”
Wright added 15 points, Johnson had 12 points and Little scored 11 points. The Sparks’ Candace Parker finished with game highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds.