Red-Hot Lynx Still Setting Pace
Posted Aug 4, 2011 2:00 PM
The top two, you probably could have guessed.
But from there, things get a little murkier. In the East, the Sun are making their case for a run at the top, while in the West, three teams are playing a game of Boggle for second. That trio – the Silver Stars, Mercury and Storm – all have 11 wins, with San Antonio taking a slight edge in the standings because it also only has seven losses, compared to eight for the other two.
Meanwhile, the Dream have cooled down, the Sky seem to be falling and the Sparks are sputtering. However, nothing is over -- especially with rumors that Candace Parker's set to return soon.
|2011 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: 8/4|
|TEAM (last week)||W / L||NOTES|
Newton would have been proud. For the last – well, essentially forever – when the Minnesota Lynx have gone up, they’ve always come down. Strong start after strong start fell prey to disastrous finish, as Minnesota disintegrated down the stretch. But if the past week’s any indication, we may be in for a very different outcome in 2011. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Lynx have rattled off four straight wins, to make that seven in a row and nine of their last 10. As complete a package as exists in the WNBA right now – Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore are all top-20 (mostly top 10) players in the league right now – the Lynx don’t look to be slowing at all.
Upcoming Games:8/4 vs San Antonio, 8/7 @ Los Angeles, 8/9 @ Phoenix
Four up, four down. Over the last quartet of games, the Fever took on teams with a combined record of 31-43. And if you remove the Sun -- whom the Fever beat, handily, on July 28 to stay firmly at No. 1 in the East -- the combined record of the remaining three falls to 19-37. So, the Fever did just what it had to do: Win. Win. And Win. Indiana blew out the Sparks and the Sky, and although the Mystics kept it close (a 61-59 win for Indiana), that game was Indiana’s second road game in two nights, after it won in Connecticut a night prior. With two more games against sub-.500 teams on the immediate horizon, the Fever could be on a six-game win streak heading into its clash with San Antonio on Aug. 9.
Upcoming Games: 8/5 @ Tulsa, 8/7 @ Chicago, 8/9 vs. San Antonio
But the Storm is here in the No. 3 spot because it looks like Sue Bird and Swin Cash and the rest of the gang have, after nearly two months, figured out how to win – and win often – without Lauren Jackson. After a three-game losing streak in mid-July, the Storm have gone 4-1, including two wins over the Silver Stars and one over the Mercury (which hasn’t beaten the Storm in nine straight tries), to look like a team poised to make some noise.
Upcoming Games: 8/5 vs. Connecticut, 8/7 @ Atlanta, 8/9 @ New York
Don’t look now, but the Sun have won two in a row and six of their last seven. Outside of a split with the first-place Fever during the run, they’ve won convincingly, too, with every victory coming by five points or more. Meanwhile, teams are finding it harder and harder to stop Tina Charles, who’s now recorded four double-doubles in a row and has herself well-positioned for her first-ever MVP trophy.
Upcoming Games: 8/5 @ Seattle, 8/7 @ Phoenix, 8/9 vs. Chicago
San Antonio (3)
Becky Hammon’s troops suffered a tough-luck loss last week to the Lynx, when Lindsay Whalen nailed a buzzer-beater to send Minnesota to a 70-69 win. But then San Antonio came out and got absolutely torched by the Storm down the stretch, losing 78-64 and reflecting the inconsistency that’s plagued San Antonio all year long. Since the end of June, the Storm’s only 4-6.
Upcoming Games: 8/4 @ Minnesota, 8/6 vs. Tulsa, 8/9 @ Indiana
The Mercury, once looking like it was ready to charge into the No. 1 spot in the West, has now fallen on hard times. Since its six-game win streak to open the month of July, it’s 1-4. Twice in that stretch, the league’s top offense has failed to crack 80 points, while at the same time giving up 83 or more points in every one of those games and 90 or more in three of them. While the Mercury still possess as good a 1-2-3 punch as this league has – in Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree – they’re making other scorers look awful good these days.
Upcoming Games: 8/7 @ Connecticut, 8/9 vs. Minnesota, 8/11 vs. Atlanta
New York (7)
The Liberty’s alternated wins and losses over its last six games, losing all of the games against teams over .500 (Phoenix, Connecticut twice) and beating all the teams below (Atlanta, Washington, Tulsa). Not really the best way to instill confidence in a team that’s looking to prove it belongs in the Eastern elite, but hey, with three out of their next four games against sub-.500 clubs, the recipe could work a little bit longer.
Upcoming Games: 8/6 @ Washington, 8/9 vs. Seattle, 8/12 @ Washington
That was quick. Over the course of two games, the Dream went from a rocket shooting up from the pits of the Eastern Conference to one that’s experiencing some technical difficulties. From a five-game winning streak to a two-game losing streak (at the hands of Connecticut and New York), the Dream are starting to realize that no matter how good Angel McCoughtry is – and over the past month, she’s been arguably the best in the WNBA – they need a little more to compete for a playoff spot.
Upcoming Games: 8/7 vs. Seattle, 8/9 @ Washington, 8/11 @ Phoenix
Los Angeles (10)
Outside of a two-game win streak a month ago and a win over the Sky last week, the Sparks have floundered without Candace Parker. Parker’s slated to return in August, and if the Sparks can go on a run while the rest of the West beats up on each other, they can sneak into the postseason, but it’ll have to be soon.
Upcoming Games: 8/7 vs. Minnesota, 8/9 vs. Tulsa, 8/12 vs. Phoenix
The Sky have given us two faces lately, with a win over Seattle, but losses to L.A. and Atlanta. Then, with a chance for a big win over New York on Wednesday, Chicago scored exactly one point in the fourth quarter of a 59-49 loss. And over the next five games, it doesn’t get any easier. A few weeks ago, Sylvia Fowles’ bunch looked primed to reach the postseason for the first time in its history, but in order to make that a reality, they’ve got to take the wins when they can get them.
Upcoming Games: 8/7 vs. Indiana, 8/9 @ Connecticut, 8/12 vs. Minnesota
With Alana Beard still out, the Mystics have yet to fill their leadership void and provide any real support to Crystal Langhorne and her 18.3 points per game. They’ve lost nine of 10 and now face five out of six games against teams in the top half of their conferences. A tough road getting here, and it only gets tougher ahead. At least they get to play the next three at home.
Upcoming Games: 8/6 vs. New York, 8/9 vs. Atlanta, 8/12 vs. New York
These days, it’s tough to find positives in Tulsa, outside of the 6-foot-8 frame of Liz Cambage. So let’s focus on her. While playing 24 minutes or less, she’s scored in double-figures in four out of her last five games and notched seven rebounds in a battle with Sylvia Fowles on July 28. She got blanked in rebounds a game later against the Storm, but still, there’s a bright future ahead in Tulsa. Just not necessarily the near future, with the Shock one game away from a four-game road trip that involves the Silver Stars, Storm and Lynx.
Upcoming Games: 8/5 vs. Indiana, 8/6 @ San Antonio, 8/9 @ Los Angeles