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Seattle Storm blow 21-point lead in opener

Kristi Toliver of the Sparks, right, scored 25 points Friday. (Associated Press)
Kristi Toliver of the Sparks, right, scored 25 points Friday. (Associated Press)

SEATTLE – It started with an innocent spurt that only seemed as if it would make an inevitable season-opening loss for Los Angeles a bit more respectable.

Before she knew it, Kristi Toliver and the Sparks were pulling off one of their most improbable victories.

Toliver scored 10 of her 25 points in the fourth quarter and the Sparks overcame a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Seattle Storm 72-66 on Friday night in a WNBA season opener.

Los Angeles outscored Seattle 30-10 in the fourth quarter, taking its first lead of the game on Toliver’s baseline reverse layup with 1:38 remaining. The Sparks had lost seven of their previous nine games against Seattle.

“It’s something that we haven’t shown in the past. It’s good to see this team show it from game one,” Toliver said. “We started off slow and were able to fight back. In this building, it’s something that doesn’t come easy, so we’re very proud of it.”

Candace Parker added 11 points for Los Angeles, including a pair of key baskets in the comeback, and a tough shot in the lane with 28 seconds left. But Parker was on the bench while most of the heavy work was being done as the Sparks whittled away at a 54-33 deficit with 2:48 left in the third quarter.

Los Angeles’ massive rally started with a 10-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters, pulling to 56-48 with 7:54 left on DeLisah Milton-Jones’ jumper. Jantel Lavender hit a baseline jumper for the Sparks, and Toliver scored on a drive to cut Seattle’s lead to 56-52. After Tina Thompson’s 3-pointer rimmed out for Seattle, Alana Beard converted a difficult left-handed layup while being fouled. She missed the free throw, but the lead was just two.

Sue Bird answered with a baseline layup with 5:29 left, Seattle’s first points of the fourth quarter. Seattle pushed its lead back to 62-56 with 4:20 left when Tanisha Wright scored on a fast-break layup, but the Storm were outscored 16-4 the rest of the way.