The Minnesota Lynx remain the league's juggernauts this week as they're playing freakishly athletic basketball that is difficult for anyone to stop right now. Considering their most worthy opponents all seem to be on slumps as of late, it's becoming more and more unclear who can stand in Minnesota's way on its quest for a second-straight WNBA championship.
Meanwhile, the New York Liberty pulled ahead in the race to get their hands on the league's only contested playoffs spot by beating the Los Angeles Sparks in a thrilling matchup on Sunday. I chatted with coaches from both teams after the game and got a good feel for the pulse of each team. Time to rank 'em!
|2012 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: 9/11|
|TEAM (last week)||W / L||NOTES|
It should come as no surprise that the superhuman Minnesota Lynx stay at No. 1 on the list in midst of their 11-game winning streak. It's the second winning streak of 10+ games they've had this season -- no other team has done that in WNBA history except the Los Angeles Sparks in 2000. The Lynx are playing phenomenal basketball right now and most importantly, they are doing so under pressure. Over the weekend, in a 2011 WNBA Finals rematch, the Lynx beat the Atlanta Dream 97-93 in a nail-biting double overtime matchup. At one point in the game, the Lynx were down by 25 points and still came from behind and won the game. It's the largest come-from-behind win in WNBA history. The Lynx have already locked in the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and it's going to be very hard for any team to take them down on their quest to the top.
Upcoming Games: 9/11 @Chicago, 9/14 @Indiana
The Connecticut Sun prove once again why they are the best team in the Eastern Conference with their come-from-behind win against the Chicago Sky over the weekend. Tina Charles put up 24 points as the Sun overcame being down by as many as 14 points to win, 82-77. Kara Lawson had a stellar game as well, racking up nine assists and six rebounds. The Sun's biggest weakness this season is closing games at home (compared to their stellar road record) and the win against the Sky is a good way to hone in on that.
Upcoming Games: 9/12 @Phoenix, 9/14 @Los Angeles
The Indiana Fever last week became the only team in WNBA history to win more than 10 home games in a season for 11 consecutive seasons (Thanks Fever website for that statistic!). But all the Fever talk right now is centering around Katie Douglas. The ageless shooter scored a season high of 30 points against the Mercury over the weekend moving her career scoring total past 5,000 points. Only 10 players in WNBA history can boast such a feat. Between Douglas and Tamika Catchings, the Fever are in solid shape moving into the playoffs, but the remaining players on the team need to step it up if they want to stay competitive in the post season.
Upcoming Games: 9/5 @Atlanta, 9/7 @San Antonio
Los Angeles (4)
The Los Angeles Sparks were upset by a hungry New York Liberty team over the weekend, 73-71. I was in attendance and the Sparks were up most of the game, but towards the end they looked fatigued and the Liberty pounced on it. I chatted with the Sparks after the game and coach Carol Ross said her team is exhausted considering the game was the last stop on a 13-day, five-game roadtrip for the team. "We're still standing, that's a positive," Ross said with a laugh. "But it was a great game. We've got plenty of stuff to move forward with and we're just trying to be the best playoff team we can be. But we know we've got plenty of business to take care of." Hopefully the next stretch of home games for the Sparks will give them some time to rejuvenate because they seem to be on a slump since their nine-game winning streak was snapped about two weeks ago. When that happens, expect the Sparks to bump up on the rankings board considering the triple threat of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Tolliver is second to maybe only Minnesota's trio of Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen.
Upcoming Games: 9/13 vs. Chicago, 9/14 vs. Connecticut
It looks like Atlanta's drama days are behind them as the team gets back to its fiercely competitive ways. The Dream may have lost to the Lynx over the weekend, but boy oh boy was that double-overtime game fun to watch. Angel McCoughtry led the Dream with 30 points and she had plenty of help from Lindsey Harding and rookie Tiffany Hayes, who put up 23 and 16 points respectively. The game was a rematch of the 2011 WNBA Finals, and considering Atlanta is on the verge of clinching their playoffs spot any day now, it could be a sign of what we may see again in the 2012 postseason. But in order for that to happen, McCoughtry's teammates, like Harding and Hayes, need to put up stellar performances like that night after night. Every opponent in the playoffs will be focusing on shutting down McCoughtry, the leading scorer in the league, so her teammates are going to need to step it up.
Upcoming Games: 9/11vs. Seattle, 9/14 @Washington
New York (9)
The New York Liberty jump up on the rankings board after running away with an upset win against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday and getting the upper hand against the Chicago Sky in the fight for the league's only competitive playoff spot. And things are looking good for the Liberty in capturing that spot considering the Sky's remaining games this season are against much tougher teams. But Liberty coach John Whisenant said after the Sparks game he's not taking that for granted. "Just because we have a more advantageous schedule on paper doesn't mean a thing," he said. "You still have to win. We got to play like we have to win every game."
Upcoming Games: 9/12 vs. Washington, 9/16 @Washington
San Antonio (5)
The San Antonio Silver Stars' five-game losing streak is a stark contrast to the underdog team that was the talk of the town last month with a 12-game winning streak. Sure the team has already locked in a playoff spot this year and 17-11 is a far from poor record, but they're giving up sloppy losses right now to teams that they could potentially square off with in the postseason. On Sunday, the Minnesota Lynx annihilated the Silver Stars, 81-62. Sophia Young may have put up 20 points for the Silver Stars, but it seemed like the rest of the team was a no-show -- the next leading scorer on the team only had eight points. The Silver Stars have some of the best teamwork in the league, orchestrated by the brilliancy of coach Dan Hughes, and right now they desperately need to get back to that.
Upcoming Games: 9/12 @ Tulsa, 9/14 vs. Seattle
The Seattle Storm clinched a playoff spot over the weekend with back-to-back wins against the Tulsa Shock where they won each game by more than 20 points. It's the ninth year in a row the Storm have made it to the playoffs - a WNBA record. The Storm were hurting badly for most of the season by losing Lauren Jackson to Olympics play but it seems like things have more than turned around for the team. It's hard to gauge, however, how well the Storm will fare in the postseason because most of the wins they've racked up as of late have been against lower ranked teams.
Upcoming Games: 9/11 @ Atlanta, 9/12 @Indiana
Things aren't looking good for the Chicago Sky even thought they're in striking distance of beating out the New York Liberty for the fourth seed in the East. Since both teams are only about a game apart, every W counts right now. The Sky had the momentum starting with beating the Liberty last Friday, but then lost it when they lost to the Sun while the Liberty beat the Sparks on Sunday. And things aren't looking good for the Sky this week either. Between the team's star Sylvia Fowles having a lagging leg injury and the team playing the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks this week, the team has a lot to of obstacles to overcome if they want that playoff spot.
Upcoming Games: 9/11 vs. Minnesota, 9/13 Los Angeles
The Phoenix Mercury racked up what might've been their most exciting win all season by defeating the Connecticut Sun, 91-82 on Sept. 7. DeWanna Bonner continues to dazzle for the Mercury and put up 35 points while Diana Taurasi scored 16 points in just 18 minutes of play. Unfortunately, the win is too little too late considering all the playoff spots in the Western Conference have now been secured (Minnesota, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Seattle). But it was an impressive win considering the Sun are one of the favorites for the WNBA title.
Upcoming Games: 9/12 @Connecticut, 9/14 @ Phoenix
The only reason Tulsa is not at the last spot on the rankings board is because they aren't losing as bad as the Washington Mystics. The Shock were dealt heavy blows last week losing back-to-back games to the Seattle Storm by more than 23 points each, putting them on a three-game losing streak and officially writing them off from getting into the playoffs. In fairness, the Shock do have promise in their rookies Glory Johnson and Riquna Williams (Williams put up 13 points and a career high of six-assists in the team's last game). It will be an uphill climb next year, but things are certainly looking brighter in Tulsa now than they were a year ago.
Upcoming Games: 9/12 vs. San Antonio, 9/14 @Phoenix
The Washington Mystics are on an eight-game losing streak and they've lost many of those games by double digits. In fact, the team's last two losses have been by 25 and 28 points. It goes without saying that the Mystics haven't proven themselves to be playoff competitors and unfortunately, they also haven't proven they can be competitive with the better teams in the league. To their credit, this team's roster is virtually unrecognizable compared to the year before so their lack of continuity can be attributed to not having enough time to develop team chemistry. But, after 29 games, you would've hoped they would have that sorted out by now.
Upcoming Games: 9/12 @New York, 9/14 vs. New York