Shooting for Three
By Brian Martin, WNBA.com

In honor of the three-day holiday weekend, the Power Rankings have a theme of three for this week, as we try to find the best three words to describe each team's plight in the season's final 10 days.

2011 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: 9/2

TEAM (last week) W / L NOTES
1
Minnesota (1)
24-6 Three Words: Rest or rust?
The Lynx need only a win or a Fever loss to wrap up home-court advantage for the entire playoffs. Once that is secured, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve will be faced with the dilemma of whether or not to rest her players in meaningless games as they head into the playoffs. The Lynx have won six straight, so do you keep the run going or try to be rested for the posteason?
Remaining Games: 9/02 vs New York, 9/04 @ New York, 9/08 vs Chicago, 9/11 @ Phoenix
2
Indiana (2)
19-10 Three Words: Let's go Dream
If the playoffs started today, the Fever would have the No. 1 seed in the East and face the No. 4 seed in the first round. That all sounds good until you look at the matchup and realize that the Fever are 0-3 against the fourth-seeded Dream. So while the Fever look to hold off the Sun for the top seed, they would love to see the Dream get out of the four spot before the season ends.
Remaining Games: 9/02 @ Connecticut, 9/04 @ Chicago, 9/07 vs Washington, 9/09 @ New York, 9/11 vs Atlanta
3
Connecticut (3)
18-12 Three Words: Big game tonight
If the Sun have any hopes of catching the Fever for the top seed in the East, Friday's game at Mohegan Sun is virtually a must win. The Sun were unable to capitalize on the Fever's two-game slide this week as they matched it with road losses in Tulsa and San Antonio. With Indiana owning the tie-breaker with the Sun, they would have to finish a full game ahead of the Fever. Being two games back in the loss column with only four games to play makes that a tough task.
Remaining Games: 9/02 vs Indiana, 9/04 @ Washington, 9/06 @ Atlanta, 9/11 vs New York
4
Phoenix (4)
17-13 Three Words: Prepare for Storm
It appears more and more likely that the Mercury and Storm will meet in the playoffs for the second straight year. A Phoenix win over Seattle in mid-August snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Mercury against their Western Conference rivals. With identical records at the moment, the Mercury and Storm are battling for home-court advantage, and with Seattle losing only twice at home in the last two years, the Mercury need it.
Remaining Games: 9/03 vs Los Angeles, 9/08 vs Tulsa, 9/09 @ Seattle, 9/11 vs Minnesota
5
Atlanta (5)
16-14 Three Words: Do it again
The Dream had won three straight games before Thursday's surprising loss to the Mystics on Thursday night. They still remain one of the hottest teams in the league - winners of six of their last eight games - and with a two-game lead and the tie-breaker edge over Chicago, the Dream look poised to make a return trip to the playoffs. Last year, they entered the postseason as the No. 4 seed and made a run to the Finals. They may face a similar road in 2011.
Remaining Games: 9/02 vs Washington, 9/04 vs Tulsa, 9/06 vs Connecticut, 9/11 @ Indiana
6
Seattle (6)
17-13 Three Words: Home sweet home
As mentioned earlier, the Storm are in a fight with the Mercury for the No. 2 seed in the West and the home-court advantage in the first round that comes with it. The Storm are tied with the Lynx and Sun for the top home record in the league at 13-2. The Storm have gone 4-1 since Lauren Jackson returned to the lineup, but still have not found a boost in their offense, averaging just 65.4 points during that stretch. While they boast the league's best defense (allowing 70.1 ppg), they will need to find their offense if they face Phoenix in the first round.
Remaining Games: 9/02 @ Tulsa, 9/03 @ San Antonio, 9/09 vs Phoenix, 9/11 vs Chicago
7
New York (7)
17-13 Three Words: Fourth quarter madness
One thing about the Liberty, they do make things exciting. Over their last six games, the Liberty have gone 4-2 in games decided by a total of 16 points (an average of 2.7 points). A common thread among all of the games are dramatic fourth quarters, the most recent of which saw the Liberty outscore the Sky 30-15 in the final period to overcome a 14-point deficit and get the win. It's a dangerous way to live, but it sure is fun to watch.
Remaining Games: 9/02 @ Minnesota, 9/04 vs Minnesota, 9/09 vs Indiana, 9/11 @ Connecticut
8
San Antonio (9)
15-15 Three Words: Just in time
Heading into Tuesday's game against Connecticut, the Silver Stars had lost six straight games and 10 of their last 12 and appeared destined to fall out of the playoff picture after such a promising start to the season. But against the Sun, the Silver Stars found the offense that had failed them for much of August and prevailed with a 12-point win. They followed it up with an impressive 18-point win over the Mercury on Thursday to strengthen their hold on the No. 4 seed in the West.
Remaining Games: 9/03 vs Seattle, 9/06 @ Los Angeles, 9/10 vs Washington, 9/11 @ Tulsa
9
Los Angeles (8)
13-17 Three Words: Playoffs start now
San Antonio's two straight wins did not help, but the Sparks are not out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference just yet. Sitting two games back with just four to play makes every game a quasi playoff game for the Sparks, especially next Tuesday's home game against the Silver Stars. A win would bring the Sparks closer in the standings and also even the season series, forcing a secondary tie-breaker (conference record, both currently 9-10) if the teams finish the season even.
Remaining Games: 9/03 @ Phoenix, 9/06 vs San Antonio, 9/09 vs Tulsa, 9/10 vs Chicago
10
Chicago (10)
14-16 Three Words: By a thread
The Sky remain in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but barely. A loss to the Liberty on Tuesday - when the Sky squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead - just about sealed their fate. The Sky are now two games back of the Dream and do not own the tie-breaker between them, so they would have to finish a full game ahead of Atlanta to secure the No. 4 seed. Making up three games in the standings with only four to play is tough enough, without having the two conference leaders as the next two games on your schedule.
Remaining Games: 9/04 vs Indiana, 9/08 @ Minnesota, 9/10 @ Los Angeles, 9/11 @ Seattle
11
Washington (11)
6-24 Three Words: Here to spoil
The Mystics may have been eliminated from the playoffs already, but that doesn't mean they can't have an impact in their final 10 days. With matchups against four playoff-contending teams, the Mystics have a chance to affect which teams earn home-court advantage and even which teams make the postseason. The return of Monique Currie and the consistent play of Crystal Langhorne make the Mystics a tougher matchup than their record would indicate.
Remaining Games: 9/02 @ Atlanta, 9/04 vs Connecticut, 9/07 @ Indiana, 9/10 @ San Antonio
12
Tulsa (12)
3-26 Three Words: Bring on 2012
The Shock ended their WNBA-record losing streak with a win over L.A. last week, but followed it up with an impressive win over playoff-bound Connecticut two days later. Hopes for a three-game winning streak were dashed by the Mercury on Tuesday, but it was still the best week for the Shock this season. With five games against playoff-contending teams in the final 10 days, the Shock (like the Mystics) can help determine the playoff field. Just ask Los Angeles. The Shock's streak-ending win came at the Sparks' expense and it was a loss that may prove costly.
Remaining Games: 9/02 vs Seattle, 9/04 @ Atlanta, 9/08 @ Phoenix, 9/09 @ Los Angeles, 9/11 vs San Antonio

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