SAN ANTONIO — Vickie Johnson had a career high-tying 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting to lead the San Antonio Silver Stars to an 89-72 victory over the Sparks on Saturday night.
"I wanted to be aggressive when I got the ball," Johnson said. "As individuals, we just wanted to be aggressive and take what the defense gives us, and they gave us some open shots."
Sophia Young scored 17 points, Becky Hammon had 11 points and Edwidge Lawson-Wade added 11 points and 11 assists for San Antonio (14-17), which has won three straight for the first time this season. The Silver Stars moved one game behind the third-place Sparks in the Western Conference.
"The beginning of the season is over, and the last six games are very important," Johnson said. "The team that's playing well at that time is the team that does well in the playoffs and the championship."
Lisa Leslie scored 21 points, and Candace Parker had 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as the Sparks (15-16) lost their second straight game and their second straight chance at clinching a playoff berth. Tina Thompson added 12 points.
The Sparks' loss gave Seattle second place in the West and home-court advantage in the first round.
Like Tuesday night when they blew a seven-point lead in a loss to Atlanta, the problems started for the Sparks in the third quarter. They trailed by one, but Johnson -- who has announced she is retiring after the season -- made six of seven shots, including three three-pointers, and San Antonio outscored the Sparks, 28-15, in the third quarter.
The Sparks committed 17 turnovers leading to 19 points for the Silver Stars. San Antonio had six turnovers.
"There's no way we can come out and have that many turnovers and expect to get a win against this type of team," Leslie said. "They're definitely not going to beat themselves."
Leslie, who is also playing her final season, tried to start a rally for the Sparks with a three-point play late in the third quarter. She rebounded a missed three-pointer by Betty Lennox and quickly followed with a basket and a free throw after being fouled by Johnson to cut San Antonio's lead to 58-48 with 1:49 left in the period.
The Silver Stars, however, pulled away and led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
The Sparks shot 68% in the first half -- including nine of 11 in the second quarter -- yet trailed 36-35 at halftime. Parker was five for five in the second quarter and the Sparks' reserves were four for four.
"Turnovers killed us tonight, and our defense wasn't very good," Sparks Coach Michael Cooper said. "It's always a big deal when you give a team like that second and third shots. But in the second half it didn't matter what we did, they got on fire and they were hitting shots."
The Sparks blew a six-point lead by committing two turnovers and going scoreless in the final two minutes of the half. The Silver Stars trimmed that lead to one point on Johnson's three-pointer with 29 seconds left, and took the lead when Johnson made an off-balance shot at the buzzer.