Minny in the Mix
By Frank Della Femina, WNBA.com

2010 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: 6/25

TEAM (last week) W / L NOTES
Seattle (1)
11-2 The Storm is coming off a week where they posted a 2-1 record. Perhaps that's expected when you consider the talent and depth of the team. But here's where it gets interesting: Seattle played Indiana on the road last Thursday (lost 72-65), flew into New York for a game the following night against the Liberty (won 92-84), flew back to Seattle on Saturday to prepare for a home game against the Silver Stars on Sunday (won 82-61). The good news for Seattle is that they came out of that tough stretch with first place still in hand. The better news came earlier the following week when it was revealed Sue Bird did not seriously injure her knee in the last game against San Antonio.
Next Three Games: 6/25 vs. Indiana, 6/27 at Tulsa, 6/29 vs. San Antonio
Indiana (3)
8-4 In case you haven't noticed, Indiana is streaking. Not only is that a good sign for the Fever (and fans), but Indy is also topping some big-time teams in the process. Take for instance the last three games against Connecticut, Seattle and Atlanta. If we're talking strictly in terms of standings, then Indy beat a team tied with them for second, the first place team in the West and the first place team in the East. Should they continue to piece together wins at this rate over teams of this caliber, then they will be at the top of the Conference in no time. Remember, this is a team that posted an 11-game win streak last season. Not much has changed this time around, as nine of the 11 players currently on the roster were with the Fever for the championship run in 2009. Of course, adding a player like Shavonte Zellous doesn't hurt either. The next three games on the road are going to be big.
Next Three Games: 6/25 at Seattle, 6/27 at Chicago, 6/29 at Washington
Atlanta (2)
10-4 It's hard to pinpoint which player on the Dream stands out the most. This, in case you were wondering, is a good thing for Atlanta. Whether it's Angel McCoughtry, Erika de Souza, Iziane Castro Marques or Sancho Lyttle, the Dream is taking care of business. What's more impressive, other than the fact that they're currently in first place in the East, is that of all the teams in the league, Atlanta holds the best interconference record (5-1). This is obviously a nice boost to their regular season W/L count, but should they get to the Finals, they may even look to rely on these gameplans that worked during the regular season. P.S. - The only team to beat Atlanta so far this season in interconference play? Seattle.
Next Three Games: 6/27 vs. Los Angeles, 6/29 vs. Phoenix, 7/1 vs. Minnesota
Washington (4)
8-4 It was obviously a huge blow to the Mystics when they announced they'd be without Alana Beard for the 2010 run before the regular season even tipped off. While obviously upset about losing Beard, head coach Julie Plank was confident as ever in stating that the Mystics would look to "win by committee" in WNBA.com's Mystics season preview. So far, it's working. Monique Currie and Crystal Langhorne are just two members of the committee who stand out on Washington as big performers in both scoring and rebounding, but guards Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith are also posing as reliable contributors. Washington may be ranked 10th overall in points per game (75.83), but it is also ranked first overall in points allowed (71.08). In other words, they've created a bubble of comfort for themselves that leaves other teams with two options: Get trapped in our style of play, or work twice as hard to burst out of it. So far, in four straight games, the other team has failed to burst out.
Next Three Games: 6/25 at Chicago, 6/27 vs. Phoenix, 6/29 vs. Indiana
Connecticut (5)
8-4 Winning on the road had been an issue for the Connecticut Sun all season long, as they remained a winless 0-3 heading into this past week's action. Meanwhile, at home, the Sun was a perfect 6-0. Of course you wouldn't know that based on this past week's worth of play, as that trend flipped completely. Friday at Los Angeles, Connecticut snagged its first road win of the season thanks in part to Tina Charles' 26 points and 19 rebounds. Two nights later in Phoenix, the Sun did it again in yet another close game as they just hung on to beat the Mercury 96-94. Coming home for Sunday's game should've been a bit of a relief, right? Not exactly, as the Chicago Sky snapped its own four-game losing streak in a 86-77 Connecticut loss. Either way, winning on the road is big, especially come playoff time. Connecticut can at least rest easy knowing they got that monkey off their back.
Next Three Games: 6/25 vs. Phoenix, 6/27 at New York, 6/29 at Tulsa
Phoenix (6)
5-7 The Mercury hits the road for three straight games this week as part of an east coast swing. Playing on the road has not been Phoenix's strong suit this year, as they currently hold a 1-3 away record. The timing of this trip couldn't be any worse from a Mercury point of view either. Just this past week, Phoenix dropped two straight on their home court to San Antonio and Connecticut. Heading out on the road now will require an extreme effort to keep it together and at least walk out of the trip with a 2-1 record. However, sometimes road trips can really bring a team together. Who knows? Maybe this could be a blessing in disguise.
Next Three Games: 6/25 at Connecticut, 6/27 at Washington, 6/29 at Atlanta
Minnesota (12)
5-9 Three consecutive wins gets the Minnesota Lynx out of the basement, but now's the time for them to really make a push in the West. With Seimone Augustus back in the lineup, the Lynx have gone 3-2. To truly measure the impact of her return, you have to consider they were 2-8 before she came back. Makes you really wonder what's in store for Minnesota as we edge closer to the halfway point of the season. While this remains one of the positive things to come out of Minnesota recently, the downside is certainly embedded in the fact that Candice Wiggins will miss the remainder of the season after rupturing her Achilles tendon on Tuesday against the Liberty. The experienced Lindsay Whalen would seem like the obvious choice to handle some of Wiggins' minutes, but she's already logging close to 30 minutes per game. This likely means that it will be an opportunity for the rookie Monica Wright to step up big and help support this team. Keep an eye on this team over the next three games.
Next Three Games: 6/26 at San Antonio, 7/1 at Atlanta, 7/8 vs. San Antonio
New York (7)
4-7 It will be interesting to see how New York matches up with Tulsa's end-to-end style of play when they head to the BOK Center for a match against the Shock Friday night. They may be currently battling for a playoff spot, but as a team the Liberty is shooting .452, good enough for third in the league. And if teams out there are thinking about beating the Liberty at the free throw line, think again. New York is shooting a league-best .831 from the stripe. But the area that's really hurting the Libs right now is rebounding. Acquiring Plenette Pierson from the Tulsa Shock gives them a good presence inside that should, in theory, improve their RPG average of 30.27 (11th in the league).
Next Three Games: 6/25 at Tulsa, 6/27 vs. Connecticut, 6/29 at Los Angeles
Chicago (9)
5-8 Scott Stanchak said it best last week: "Four has been an interesting number for the Sky so far this season." Four losses, four wins, four losses and now a win to put them back in the right direction. Can we expect three more? You never know. And perhaps that's the one thing keeping the Sky in the bottom of the team rankings. You just never know how they're going to play on any given night. Sylvia Fowles is just about as consistent a player as you could want in the paint. For a rookie, Epiphanny Prince is putting up some significant points, but that too is hard to predict game in and game out. Similar to the Lynx in the West, the hole is not too deep for the Sky. But if they want to make a run in the East, they'll have to start with improving on that 2-8 conference record.
Next Three Games: 6/25 vs. Washington, 6/27 vs. Indiana, 7/1 vs. Connecticut
San Antonio (10)
4-7 It's so hard to predict which San Antonio team is going to come out and compete on game-by-game basis. Will it be the staff of players who dropped 108 points on Phoenix to hang on to a three-point win? Or will it be the team that's struggling to crack 70 or 80 points in losses to Seattle, Connecticut or Atlanta? Three of San Antonio's four wins came against teams at the bottom of the West: Tulsa (twice) and Los Angeles. The big win over Phoenix looked like it may have been San Antonio's chance to really break out and rip through the schedule, but they followed that performance up with an 82-61 loss to Seattle two nights later. Even still, if the playoffs started this weekend, the Stars would be in.
Next Three Games: 6/26 vs. Minnesota, 6/29 at Seattle, 7/1 at Los Angeles
Los Angeles (11)
3-9 If losing at the start of the season wasn't bad enough, losing Candace Parker for the season definitely isn't going to improve Los Angeles' chances at dominating this season. Mind you, this doesn't mean they're out of playoff contention by any means, but it's going to take a complete, well-rounded team effort to make a push. Injuries still remain the issue of concern though. Outside of Parker, the Sparks will also be without Betty Lennox for four-to-six weeks due to knee surgery. So even if L.A. was looking to rely on the 2004 WNBA Finals MVP for a little more production, that option is now crossed off the list. Tina Thompson's workload will increase significantly, but a one-woman show isn't going to get it done. The wins are spotty, but when they come they have the potential to do so against bigger teams, such as Washington, Phoenix and Minnesota. Of course, the win against Phoenix came thanks in part to Parker's last-second heroics in the paint and the win over Minnesota was Seimone Augustus' second game back. Once the Sparks scratch Sunday's road game against Atlanta off the schedule, they have a four-game home stand to rely on that may potentially help them climb out of the basement.
Next Three Games: 6/27 at Atlanta, 6/29 vs. New York, 7/1 vs. San Antonio
Tulsa (8)
3-9 Things are just not clicking for Tulsa as of late. Not only have they dropped six straight games, but they are also trying to get by the next few without the team's second place scorer Shanna Crossley. But in the Shock's defense, they have more or less spent the past three weeks on the road. Five of the last six games for Tulsa have come on the road, with the only home match being the second half of a home-and-away series with the Lynx on back-to-back nights. Brutal. Tulsa held their own Wednesday afternoon against the Dream, but in the end Atlanta edged it out 96-90. New York, a team hungry to turn things around, will be the first team to come to town starting Friday night, followed by the West's best Seattle Storm and the top contender in the East, the Connecticut Sun. If ever there was a time to make a statement on their home court, now would be the time.
Next Three Games: 6/25 vs. New York, 6/27 vs. Seattle, 6/29 vs Connecticut