Camille Little felt like everything was going in slow motion. She was fast enough to extend the Seattle Storm’s season.
Little stole an inbounds pass, took a return pass from Tanisha Wright and converted a layup with five seconds left Friday night, helping the Storm stun the Sparks, 75-74, and even the best-of-three WNBA Western Conference semifinals.
Game 3 is Sunday in Seattle.
The Sparks were up, 74-70, when Sue Bird drained a three-pointer with 10.7 seconds left, cutting the lead to one. The Sparks called a timeout and inbounded from the sideline near midcourt. Little stole Noelle Quinn’s pass, went under the hoop and laid it in one-handed.
Sparks Coach Michael Cooper said a better decision on the inbounds pass might have led to a different outcome.
“It’s not about getting it inbounds. When a team is pressuring you like they were and switching and denying, sometimes it’s difficult to get it in,” he said. “But you have to make the right decision. Was that the right decision? I’m pretty sure Noelle, if she had to do it over again, would make another one. But you can’t second-guess yourself at that time.”
Said Little: “Ashley Walker pressured the ball, and when the ball went in the air, I got a hand on it. You really can’t think about it. It should be something we should be able to do. It was all in slow motion.
“Everyone did a good job all around for us to be in that position. If Sue didn’t hit that shot, the score would have been real different.”
Lisa Leslie, whose tip-in with 27.9 seconds left snapped a 70-70 tie, and Delisha Milton-Jones missed shots in the final seconds.
Swin Cash led Seattle with 18 points; Bird and Wright had 15 apiece. Little scored eight.
Reserve Betty Lennox had 17 points to lead the Sparks. Candace Parker had 15, Tina Thompson 14 and Leslie 12.
The Storm avoided a fifth straight first-round playoff exit since winning the WNBA title in 2004.
“We’ve got people out there who aren’t going to quit,” Seattle Coach Brian Agler said. “Now did it look good for us for a second? No, it didn’t look good. But Camille and Tanisha defensively just made a great play. We got an opportunity to make a layup, and we’re playing Sunday.”
Seattle used a 14-2 run over the first five minutes of the third quarter to turn a 45-34 deficit into a 48-47 lead. Wright capped the run with a three-point play with 4:55 left in the quarter. Little’s basket at the end of the third gave the Storm a 56-55 lead.
The Storm scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to take a 63-55 lead. But the Sparks went on a 10-0 run and went up 65-63 on a shot by Thompson with 4:31 to play.