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Originally published September 22, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Page modified September 22, 2013 at 10:12 PM

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Storm ousted from playoffs

Tina Thompson ends her career trying hard to extend Seattle’s season

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TACOMA – WNBA legend Tina Thompson almost held the fate of her 17-year career in her hands, but then time expired.

Down three points to top-seeded Minnesota in Game 2 of Seattle’s opening-round playoff series, Thompson called for the ball at the top of the key. It didn’t matter what happened after that because the final buzzer sounded on a 58-55 Seattle defeat Sunday in the Tacoma Dome.

Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blared from the speakers as the announced crowd of 3,457 chanted “Thank You Tina” until she exited the court. Thompson, a 6-foot-2 power forward, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. She announced in May she would retire from the WNBA after this season.

“I can walk away and feel OK with how we finished because we gave as much as we possibly could,” Thompson said Sunday. “I’ve always wanted to retire from the game and not the game retire from me. So, when I leave on my own terms, it’s a lot easier to settle with.”

Thompson, 37, might not be totally done with basketball, however. She was the top overall draft choice of KDB Life Insurance Winnus of the Women’s Korean Basketball League and is mulling over a contract that would pay about $25,000 a month.

The season runs from November to April, but players are expected to report in October.

“I’m a little banged up right now,” Thompson said about whether she’ll have one last season overseas.

Thompson is certain she’s done with the WNBA. Expecting to be a role player on a Seattle team with stars like Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, Thompson jumped into a go-to scoring role with Jackson and Bird both out due to offseason surgeries.

Sunday, Thompson called for the ball with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter and guard Tanisha Wright quickly handed it over. Thompson drove right down the lane for a layup to give Seattle a 55-54 lead with 1:20 remaining.

The Storm forced Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen into an offensive foul, but All-Star Seimone Augustus, hounded the entire night, later connected on a jumper with 21.1 seconds left to regain the lead for Minnesota.

Wright threw an errant pass, and Minnesota took advantage of the turnover by eventually getting two free throws from forward Rebekkah Brunson.

Thompson then ran out of time to answer, yet still obliged the visitors with a photo-op after the game.

“It was a reality check,” said Lynx forward Maya Moore, who finished with a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds. “This was a bigger-than-basketball moment. Yeah, we just battled it out with Tina and tried to shut her down every time we could. But we wanted to honor her and get a picture! It was childlike and beautiful.”

Forced out of KeyArena due to a previously booked private Microsoft event, the Storm (0-2) brought its court, hoops and some of its fans to recreate its brand of playoff basketball to the Tacoma Dome. The team brought its bruising style of defense to hold Minnesota to a season-low in points.

But it wasn’t enough to avoid a first-round sweep. Seattle made its 10th consecutive playoff appearance but has made a first-round exit eight times. It won the championship in 2004 and 2010.

The Storm lost 2-1 to the Lynx in the 2012 opening round. Minnesota will play the winner of No. 2 seed Los Angeles and No. 3 seed Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals. The Sparks play host to a decisive Game 3 at Staples Center on Monday.

“After we got over being sad, we spoke about how special this group was,” Wright said of the emotion afterward. “We can hold our heads high because of that.”

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com.

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