The statement “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” has very little merit thus far this 2010 WNBA season. Aside from the 6-1 Atlanta Dream and Seattle Storm, the league’s other 10 squads are trailing several games behind in their respective conferences. So until more teams start to “beat ‘em,” that gap will remain.
Atlanta’s lone loss came on Tuesday night in a premier matchup against the Storm on ESPN2. What should have been a nail bitter wasn’t even close, as Seattle, led by Lauren Jackson’s 32 points, eased out the 90-72 victory. That dominating performance surely garners merit in this week’s rankings, especially now that we have a few more games to work with. Seattle’s only defeat, meanwhile, came at the hands of the 2-4 Chicago Sky, who have won two straight with that meeting. So far this season, the Storm seem to be a better second-half team, with several of their wins coming after being down at the half. This time, however, there was no comeback after the Sky went on a 13-2 run to close out the second quarter.
Since we want to bring other teams into this discussion, let’s add Connecticut and Washington to the mix. All four teams have zeros in the loss column at home, with only the Sun (three) and Storm (four) playing more than two games in their respective arenas. Also, the Sun and Los Angeles Sparks are the lone remaining teams who have yet to win on the road.
Four teams in the Western Conference have only two wins underneath Seattle, with Los Angeles mustering just one. Over in the East, Washington’s 4-3 record leaves them in second, followed closely behind by a pair of three-win (Connecticut and Indiana) and two-win (New York and Chicago) teams. Still, we’re only seven games into the 34-game season, and that leaves plenty of time for teams such as last year’s Final pairing, Phoenix and Indiana, to go on hot streaks.
|2010 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: June 4|
|TEAM (last week)||W / L||NOTES|
The Storm’s convincing win over the Dream was all I need to see before placing them into the coveted top spot in this week’s rankings. Seattle is off to its best start in franchise history, led by May Western Conference Player of the Month Lauren Jackson, who tops her team in both scoring and rebounding. The Australian native is also among the league’s Top 10 in both respective categories.
Next Three Games: 6/5 at Los Angeles, 6/6 vs. Phoenix, 6/11 vs. Los Angeles
Dreams of a perfect season went down the tubes after falling to the Storm. The 18-point margin on the scoreboard hurts, but someone had to lose in the battle between the WNBA’s best. They’ll have a tough matchup against a good Washington team on Friday, which will be a telling sign of how Atlanta can bounce back after a loss.
Next Three Games: 6/4 vs. Chicago, 6/5 at Washington, 6/11 at New York
What’s amazing about the 3-2 Sun is that they’re winning with two rookies (Tina Charles and Kelsey Griffin) in their starting lineup. That’s quite rare in this league. The 65-69 loss in Washington is tough to swallow, but they did knock them off earlier in the season. If the Sun can clean up their field-goal percentage – they’re currently ninth in the league (.415) – they could be scarier.
Next Three Games: 6/4 vs. New York, 6/6 vs. San Antonio, 6/11 vs. Indiana
In Washington’s 69-65 win over the Sun on Sunday, the team not only added a notch to their W column in the standings, but they also secured the fourth spot in this week’s rankings. I know, they have one more win than the Sun, but they’ve lost three of their last four, including handing the Los Angeles Sparks their lone victory. That in itself could get them moved down a few notches, but it did come at the end of a three-game East-to-West Coast road trip.
Next Three Games: 6/5 vs. Atlanta, 6/11 at Chicago, 6/12 vs. New York
I don’t know what’s going on in the West right now, including with the 2-3 Mercury. Phoenix sure isn’t playing like reigning champions, especially after a 92-82 loss to the Lynx on Tuesday. They’ve dropped two straight, three overall, but I won’t penalize them too much as Seattle and Atlanta were involved in two of them. We know the Mercury can score, but they need to improve their defense, which is allowing opposing teams the most points, rebounds and assists in the league.
Next Three Games: 6/4 vs. Los Angeles, 6/6 at Seattle, 6/8 at Los Angeles
New York (5)
East teams have 20 total wins, while West teams have just 15. New York is one of the teams to be victorious in the other conference. Friday’s 77-71 win over Atlanta was a well-balanced effort, as four starters scored in double figures, including 21 points and seven assists from guard Cappie Pondexter. It was also a great start to their four-game road swing, which includes back-to-back game nights in Connecticut and Indiana. Positive results from this trip would certainly bode well from them in the standings.
Next Three Games: 6/4 at Connecticut, 6/5 at Indiana, 6/11 at Chicago
The Fever looked to be back on their winning ways after taking two games from Chicago two weekends ago. Then they traveled to Oklahoma on Saturday, only to lose to the Shock, 79-74. The addition of Shavonte Zellous in a deal with Tulsa certainly adds to their depth at the guard spot off the bench. She had 10 points in her Fever debut, to which she played over 24 minutes, third highest on the team.
Next Three Games: 6/5 vs. New York, 6/6 at Minnesota, 6/11 at Connecticut
The Shock made a major jump in this week’s rankings, moving up three spots from the last addition. Their positioning was helped by ending up on the right end of a tough meeting with Indiana last Saturday. Amber Holt, who was acquired this offseason from the Sun, contributed a game-high 16 points off the bench in the 79-74 win. The Shock hope for some payback against Minnesota Friday night after dropping their season opener to the Lynx. After that, it’s a four-game road trip, which is tough on any team.
Next Three Games: 6/4 vs. Minnesota, 6/5 at Chicago, 6/11 at San Antonio
After starting 0-4, the Sky are streaking, having won their last two games, including one over the Storm last Thursday. They followed up that impressive win with a dominating 73-58 performance over Minnesota. Center Sylvia Fowles averaged 18.5 points in those two meetings, but she’ll need her supporting cast, including 2009 All-Star Jia Perkins (7.2 ppg), to step up if Chicago wants to dig themselves out of the bottom of the East.
Next Three Games: 6/4 at Atlanta, 6/5 vs. Tulsa, 6/8 vs. New York
I would have loved to move Minnesota up further for beating Phoenix on national television Tuesday night, but when I see five losses in the standings, it’s just too hard. It will be interesting to see if rookie Monica Wright, who had 32 points that night, can perform just as well off the bench moving forward. She’ll have to with the Lynx playing three games over the next seven days, including a rematch against Phoenix on June 1.
Next Three Games: 6/4 at Tulsa, 6/6 vs. Indiana, 6/10 at Phoenix
San Antonio (6)
I debated putting San Antonio higher – and I hated moving them down five spots -- but their two-game losing streak had “don’t do it” written all over it. I also looked at the boxscore from Thursday’s matchup against Indiana and their leading scorer, Chamique Holdsclaw, dropped only 12 points. In fact, only two Silver Stars had more than eight points. With All-Star guard Becky Hammon out Thursday and questionable for Sunday at Connecticut, San Antonio could be in trouble.
Next Three Games: 6/5 at Connecticut, 6/11 vs. Tulsa, 6/13 at Atlanta
Los Angeles (9)
The Sparks started slowly in 2009, but at least they could point to Candace Parker’s absence as a reason. With her in uniform now, there should be no excuses. The Sparks couldn’t transfer last Friday’s 81-75 win over Washington into a streak. They ended up fizzling out two nights later in Atlanta, despite Parker’s 33 points and Tina Thompson’s 26. We know both of them can perform well on a regular basis, but now the question that pops up is: Who’s going to step up to help?
Next Three Games: 6/4 at Phoenix, 6/5 vs. Seattle, 6/8 vs. Phoenix