SEATTLE — What better way for the Seattle Storm to thank the fans than by going undefeated at home?
The Storm did just that on Saturday, defeating the Los Angeles Sparks 76-75. On fan-appreciation night, the Storm set a WNBA record for the best home record in a season at 17-0 and also tied the WNBA record for wins in a season with 28.
“It’s great. It’s a record that can only be tied, right?” Storm guard Sue Bird joked after the game. “To go undefeated at home is really special.”
The Storm didn’t make it easy on themselves Saturday.
The Storm squandered a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter when Sparks forward/center Tina Thompson knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining in the quarter.
“Up 12, with however many minutes there were left, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Bird said.
But Tanisha Wright was the savior for the Storm. Wright knocked down a baseline fade-away with 50.7 seconds remaining to give Seattle a 76-75 lead. Wright’s shot came off a pass from Bird with the shot clock winding down.
“I had a good look at it,” Wright said. “I was surprised that Sue gave me the ball because the shot clock was down.”
Los Angeles had one final chance with 6.1 seconds left, but Marie Ferdinand-Harris missed a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining and the Storm completed their undefeated season at home.
“That wasn’t a typical game. We usually close games better,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said.
The Storm enters the playoffs with a three game winning streak.
With the win, the Storm finished the season 28-6. After the game it was announced that the Storm’s win percentage of .824 is the highest of any team in Seattle sports history.
A second half offensive explosion from center Camille Little helped push the Storm to the victory. Little knocked down all of her four field goal attempts in the quarter and added three free throws.
Little finished the game with a career-high 22 points.
“I think I was in the right place at the right time,” Little said of her performance.
Little wasn’t the only Storm player to come up big in the second half. Bird knocked down a 3-pointer late in the quarter and followed that up with an assist to Swin Cash on a fastbreak. Cash was fouled on the play and converted the free throw to give Seattle a 66-56 advantage. The Storm led 66-60 at the end of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Storm picked up where they left off in the third, building a 72-60 lead. But the Sparks had one final run that they used to nearly destroy Seattle’s dream of going undefeated at home.
In the first quarter, the Storm fell behind early due to the hot shooting of Noelle Quinn. The Sparks forward knocked down her first four shots from the field to help give the Sparks a 20-13 advantage late in the first quarter.
But as they have so many times this year, the Storm fought back. They finished the first quarter on a 7-0 run to tie the score at 20, highlighted by a Camille Little 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining.
The Storm got the crowd on their feet once again when Svetlana Abrosimova knocked down a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left in the first half to give the Storm a 39-36 lead.
Lauren Jackson chipped in 21 points for the Storm and Swin Cash added 11. Bird had seven points and nine assists.
Thompson led the Sparks with 20 points and Quinn chipped in 18.
The Storm’s quest to complete one of the most successful seasons in WNBA history with a championship begins on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Key Arena. The Storm’s opponents will be determined after the results of today’s games. The Storm are most likely to face these same Sparks in the first round, but could face the Minnesota Lynx under a different scenario.
Jackson moves into third in all-time scoring
Storm MVP candidate Lauren Jackson scored 21 points on Saturday to take over third place on the WNBA all-time scoring list. Jackson has 5,751 points for her career, all of it spent with Seattle.