With five days remaining, four playoff spots can still be had

Playoff Push: The Final Weekend


Aug. 21 -- People, we have five days left in the regular season and three spots remain open in the East, while the West needs only one more team to fill out the playoff roster.

With that, congrats to the Lynx, who, with their 69-66 win over the Mercury on Wednesday, secured a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history.

Yolanda Griffith (bottom) and the Monarchs have scrapped their way into positive playoff position.
Barry Gossage
WNBAE/Getty Images
We have many playoff plots to follow, as we head into the final weekend. Let's not waste any more time on this introduction, shall we.

THE SCENARIOS

If the Monarchs beat the Comets in Sacramento on Thursday night (10 ET), the Monarchs would make the playoffs after missing them last season. Winning on Thursday would remove the obstacles the Monarchs face in the season's final five days. (Sacramento Bee)

"We've got motivation and momentum, and we hope to keep it going," Yolanda Griffith said.

What won't keep going if the Monarchs win are the Storm's playoff hopes. They're out if Sacramento triumphs. The Storm have no one to blame but themselves. Just eight days ago, the Storm were 16-12 and sitting in third place in the Western Conference. (Seattle P-I)

"It's about pride at this point," Storm coach Anne Donovan said. "Close the season out, whatever is going to happen, is going to happen. We have two games left in Seattle, we owe our fans some good showings there and finish as strong as we can."

The Storm's fizzle has also hurt Lauren Jackson's MVP candidacy. (The West Australian)

If the Season Ended Today (8/21/2003) ...
... here's what the first-round playoff matchups would look like:

Eastern Conference:
Detroit (1) vs. New York (4)
Charlotte (2) vs. Cleveland (3)

Western Conference:
Los Angeles (1) vs. Sacramento (4)
Houston (2) vs. Minnesota (3)
"If we don't make the playoffs, she doesn't deserve to be the MVP," Donovan said. "Lauren is the best player in the league, but you have to lead your team to the playoffs."

Meanwhile, east of the Mississippi, the Shock can clinch the best record in the league if the Sparks lose at home to Minnesota (10:30 ET, NBA TV) and the Comets lose. Still, Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer is in playoffs mode. (Detroit News)

"If we win the rest of our home games, we are WNBA champions," Laimbeer told the News.

We'll leave you to figure out whether he meant the Shock clinch home-court advantage throughout the playoffs or whether he was guaranteeing a title because of said advantage. We don't have a bulletin board here.

Yet, what can you say about the East? To show you how tight the race in the East is, consider this: The Shock may clinch the league's best record before another Eastern Conference squad clinches a playoffs spot!

And while the Liberty would be the East's fourth seed if the season ended today thanks to a better conference record than the Connecticut Sun, with three games separating second and sixth place in the East, anything can happen.

That's exactly what worries Liberty coach Richie Adubato as the Liberty start a string of three games in four nights tonight in Washington. (New York Post)

"Washington has nothing to lose. Their coach is throwing everything from presses to box-and-ones, triangle-and-twos," Adubato told the Post. "We know how important it is. We have to win all three.

"Everybody's playing everybody. Everybody is fighting for their lives. It's very high-intensity, aggressive basketball. It should be good for the fans."

The team that has matched that intensity is the Sting, who clobbered the Fever on Wednesday. The Sting will play three games in four days to close out the season.

Three to See:
This week has many great games. Here are a few must-see contests:

Thursday, Aug. 21: Cleveland at Detroit � Shock want the best record, the Rockers want to stay close to the frontrunners in the East. (8 ET, ESPN)
Friday, Aug. 22: Indiana at New York � If the Fever lose, they're done, while the Liberty want to make the playoffs for the seventh-straight season (7:30 ET, NBA TV)
Monday, Aug. 25: Houston at L.A. � The only two teams to win a WNBA title go for the West's top seed. (8:45 ET, ESPN2)

"We have to play like it's important," coach Trudi Lacey told the Charlotte Observer.

We hope so. Speaking of hope, the Fever may be clinging to the hope of making the playoffs. But let's be frank: they've been awful, going 2-8 in their last 10 games. The Fever hit their nadir with their 30-point loss to the Sting on Wednesday. They have to win all three of their games to make the playoffs.

"We're still in it just like everyone else is still in it. We have to win; it's that simple," Fever coach Nell Fortner told the Indy Star.

One team that has made winning look easy in the past two weeks is Cleveland. The Rockers are third in the East and have reeled of wins in four of their last five games, including a 17-point throttling of the Sun on Tuesday.

"I thought they played with passion. I thought they played with a purpose," Rockers coach Dan Hughes said after the game.

Hughes himself was nearly overcome with excitement during the game. Here's the descripition from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer: "The Rockers persevered even after Hughes was escorted to the locker room by doctors with about 16 minutes left. He appeared ready to faint after jumping off the bench to protest an official's call. He returned to the bench with 9:15 to go.

"'I'm fine,' Hughes said after the game. 'I was yelling at an official's call and got a little too into it and got dizzy. They checked my blood pressure, and I was OK.'

And you, WNBA fans, better check yours as well.

SIDE DISHES

With all this playoffs talk, what about the awards? Well, two players have web pages that state their case. In Minnesota, we have Katie Smith and the KT4-MVP page on the Lynx site. The Storm also have a page, complete with statistical comparisons and outside links to newspapers, touting Lauren Jackson for MVP.

These pages can give you some research info so you can be more well-informed as to who you think should be league MVP.