LOS ANGELES -- Tammy Sutton-Brown scored 18 points Tuesday night and the Indiana Fever held on for an 82-76 victory over Los Angeles after the Sparks retired Lisa Leslie's number.
Katie Douglas had 17 points and Ebony Hoffman finished with 16 for the first-place Fever (19-10), who moved 1 1/2 games ahead of their closest pursuers in the Eastern Conference. Tamika Catchings added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"Every victory is critical," Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. "Every game is must have. We don't have a playoff spot secure in the East and [the Sparks] don't have one in the West. So we're both fighting for our lives."
The Sparks honored Leslie during a halftime ceremony, retiring her No. 9 jersey. Leslie led the Sparks to two WNBA championships, won three WNBA MVP awards and is a four-time Olympic gold medalist.
Tina Thompson had 21 points and a season-best 13 rebounds for the Sparks (10-19), who fell 1 1/2 games behind third-place Minnesota and one game behind fourth-place San Antonio in the race for Western Conference playoff spots.
De Lisha Milton-Jones added 16 points and rookie reserve Andrea Riley had 14 points, six assists and four rebounds for Los Angeles.
"Everybody is playing with more players than we are," said Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom, who used only seven because of injuries to Candace Parker, Betty Lennox and Ticha Penicheiro.
"It's taken its toll," Gillom said. "If we continue to play these players 35-plus minutes night in and night out, it's going to take its toll."
Douglas had six points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal as the Fever began with a 17-7 surge over the first 5:05. But the Sparks twice narrowed the margin to one point in the second quarter but the Sparks 40-38 at halftime.
"We were pushing the tempo and attacking in transition," Dunn said of Indiana's start. "Then we started throwing the ball all over the gym. We had 13 turnovers in the first half and that let them get back in the ball game."
But the Fever began the second half with a 19-4 run that gave them a 59-42 lead with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
"We needed to come out with a strong presence," Douglas said. "We just tried to exploit what they were doing [against] the pick-and-roll. I had the ball in my hands a lot so I just created for other players and tried to keep the [defense] spread."
Los Angeles drew within 74-72 with 1:53 to play but jumpers from Hoffman and Sutton-Brown, and a free throw from Douglas extended the lead to 79-72 with 34.5 seconds left.
Former Sparks center Lisa Leslie's jersey number 9 was retired at halftime. Leslie led the Sparks to two WNBA championships, received the WNBA's most valuable player award three times and won four Olympic gold medals.