LOS ANGELES -- Seattle nearly kept Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie to single-digit scoring, but the Storm couldn't weather the offensive output of Los Angeles' reserves.
Parker had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and the Sparks overcame late turnovers to beat the Storm 77-69 in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series Friday night.
Sue Bird scored 14 of her 23 points in the second half for the Storm, which got within six points in the final five minutes then went cold offensively. The Sparks' reserves outscored their counterparts 32-17.
"We shot the ball poorly in the first half and we turned the ball over early in the game," Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "We just put ourselves in too big of a hole."
Game 2 of the best-of-three playoff series is Sunday in Seattle, where the Storm was a WNBA-best 16-1 in the regular season. The Sparks won the teams' season series, losing only on the road.
"Our season is down to just one game," Bird said. "They did exactly what we knew they were going to do, which was rebound and run the ball."
DeLisha Milton-Jones and Marie Ferdinand-Harris added 11 points each, Leslie had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Keisha Brown scored 10 points for the Sparks, who prevailed despite key turnovers by Leslie, Parker and Jones in the closing minutes.
Milton-Jones has scored in double figures in four consecutive games.
"I feel really good about our chances," said Leslie, named WNBA defensive player of the year on Friday. "You've got to beat us twice in a row and that's going to be tough to do."
Tanisha Wright added 13 points for the Storm.
The Storm was without two-time league MVP Lauren Jackson, who had ankle surgery after the Beijing Olympics and isn't expected back before the finals, if the Storm get that far.
But Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper said he expects to see Jackson during the series, citing "the basketball gods" for his reasoning.
"She's walking pretty well on the other end every time I watched her," he said. "We prepared for her this game. We're not going to leave no stone unturned. They're a very good basketball team without her, but they become a great team with her."
However, Agler said Jackson wouldn't play, and Bird didn't think so either.
"I'd love to see her, but she's still rehabbing," Bird said. "She wants to be out there, but I'm not sure that will happen. It's only a few days from now, not much can change in a few days."
Seattle closed within six points after outscoring the Sparks 13-7 to open the fourth quarter. Bird had six points in the burst. But the Storm couldn't take advantage despite the Sparks' sequence of turnovers, mostly on bad passes and losing the ball out of bounds. Leslie had eight of the Sparks' 20 turnovers.
"She gives us so much more on other parts of her game that I don't worry about her turnovers," Cooper said. "When we lose our focus, we commit little turnovers that we shouldn't do and luckily we had enough lead to where we could overcome it."
Parker scored and then Ferdinand-Harris hit a 3-pointer that pushed the Sparks' lead to 74-61 with 2½ minutes remaining.
Seattle rallied from a 27-point deficit to get within eight in the third quarter when Milton-Jones sat down with her fourth foul. Veteran Sheryl Swoopes scored five in a row and Bird and Ashley Robinson added four each in the Storm's 16-8 run.
But the Sparks stretched their lead to 60-48 heading into the final quarter, helped by Raffaella Masciadri's two 3-pointers off the bench.
The Sparks dominated the opening quarter, taking an 18-5 lead with Milton-Jones, Brown and Parker all hitting consecutive three-point plays. Reserves Swin Cash and Swoopes, both playing for the first time in nearly two weeks because of injuries, joined Bird in helping the Storm close to 25-15 heading into the second quarter.
But the Sparks kept up their offensive pace, outscoring the Storm 14-4 during one stretch and taking a 44-27 lead into halftime. Backup guard Temeka Johnson scored six straight points and Sidney Spencer added four in the Sparks' spurt.