SAN ANTONIO — A physical and desperate game with playoff implications that came down to the final seconds brought out the best in veteran forward Tina Thompson.
Thompson had 27 points and 13 rebounds to help the Seattle Storm hold off the San Antonio Silver Stars 72-71 on Tuesday night to strengthen their postseason hopes.
A four-time WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Thompson helped fourth-place Seattle (14-14) overcome a sluggish start to win the season series against fifth-place San Antonio (10-18) to claim a possible tiebreaker if the teams close the season tied.
“She really took over and got us back with some offensive boards, 3s and free throw attempts,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “She’s one of the all-time best. She continues to show it at 38. She’ll mix it up. I’ve coached some of the best players and she takes a back seat to no one in regards to competitiveness.”
After falling 70-64 to San Antonio on Sunday, Seattle rebounded with a physical performance to capture a four-game lead over the youthful Silver Stars for the final postseason berth in the Western Conference with six games remaining in the regular season.
“This game was definitely high stakes because it had playoff implications,” Thompson said. “This was a really important game, and I think both teams played like that.”
Camille Little had 14 points and Tanisha Wright added 11 for Seattle, which has won four of five.
Jia Perkins scored 17 points, Shenise Johnson had 16, Davellyn Whyte added 14 and Danielle Adams 13 for San Antonio.
The Silver Stars outscored the Storm 7-2 in the final 23.8 seconds to nearly steal the victory.
Johnson made a 3-pointer, stole the inbounds pass from Thompson and fed Perkins for a 3 that pulled San Antonio within 72-71 with 1.7 seconds remaining.
Perkins stole the ensuing inbounds and flung the ball from behind the backboard, which Thompson grabbed amid a series of officials’ whistles. The referees conferred and decided the game clock, which did not start, should have expired in the final chaotic possession and ruled the game over.
“We just ran out of time,” Perkins said.
Little and Temeka Johnson scored all but four of Seattle’s final nine points, including a driving layup by the 5-foot-3 Johnson against San Antonio’s 6-4 Jayne Appel for a 69-64 lead with 39.5 seconds remaining.
The physical matchup drew the best performance of the season from Thompson.
“We fought back, but Tina had an amazing game,” Perkins said. “She’s a great player and she’s going out in a big way, but early on in the game she was the key factor.”
Thompson had nine points in the final 5:21 of the first quarter and then opened the second quarter with a 3 to give Seattle its first lead at 18-16. She closed the quarter with four rebounds, besting her final total Sunday when she finished with three rebounds and 11 points.
“I wasn’t really happy about my performance on Sunday so my mind set was to come in and just be a lot better tonight,” Thompson said. (What needed to improve was) everything. I needed to be more aggressive, be better defensively. I just think overall, the last game, I didn’t play as well as I probably could have.”
After exchanging pushes and forearms while battling for position, Thompson delivered a crushing elbow to Shenise Johnson’s neck and jaw that felled the second-year guard. Johnson left the court after sitting on the bench clutching her jaw for a few minutes while the foul was reviewed.
The blow momentarily sparked San Antonio, which scored the next six points to take a 41-39 lead.
Seattle responded with more aggression, attacking the rim in retaking the lead at 48-43.
“I just thought we were more ready to play tonight,” Agler said. “I can tell with our energy.”