Phoenix Drops
By Frank Della Femina,


TEAM (last week) W / L NOTES
Seattle (1)
14-2 The league's best team improved to 14-2 since the last go round of team rankings and, in turn, remains the team to beat. Even without Sue Bird in the lineup for Tuesday's game against the San Antonio Silver Stars, the Storm still won by the final of 86-72. Lauren Jackson, fresh off her third Player of the Week honor for the 2010 season, dropped 31 points and snatched 15 rebounds in the win. What's equally impressive is that in addition to Jackson, four other players finished with double figures. Swin Cash was second on the team with 16 points, while Le'coe WIllingham, Tanisha Wright and Svetlana Abrosimova each tallied 11. With the exception of New York, Seattle's next three games are against teams that have struggled as of late. It'll be interesting to see how those matchups pan out.
Next Three Games: 7/3 at Los Angeles, 7/6 vs. New York, 7/14 at Phoenix
Atlanta (3)
13-4 Thursday's 76-58 win over the Minnesota Lynx marked four straight for the red-hot Atlanta Dream, who improved to 13-4 to maintain hold of first place in the East. Iziane Castro Marques led all Atlanta scorers with 22 points, only further emphasizing the depth of this squad. In each of Atlanta 17 games, Angel McCoughtry has finished with double figures. Thursday's game was no different, as she ended the meeting with 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. On Saturday the Dream hosts the Sky, one of the four teams to beat Atlanta so far this season. The race is still pretty tight in the Eastern Conference, but Atlanta's making it look easy.
Next Three Games: 7/3 vs. Chicago, 7/7 vs. Connecticut, 7/14 at Minnesota
Washington (4)
11-5 How valuable is Katie Smith to the Washington Mystics? Well, during Thursday night's neck-and-neck game against the Mercury, Smith scored nine straight points for the Mystics to close out the 107-104 win. Six of those nine came from the free throw line where clutch shooting preserved the lead. Smith's 25 point night marked the second straight game in which she's scored 20 or more. The win improved Washington's record to 11-5, snapping the second place tie with Connecticut who lost earlier in the night to Chicago, and pulling them within one game of the Dream. As a further credit to the Mystics, they are not only getting it done by means of a win-by-committee approach that coach Plank discussed earlier in the season, but they are doing it with only nine active players on the roster. On Thursday, eight of those nine registered three or more points.
Next Three Games: 7/3 vs. Tulsa, 7/15 at New York, 7/18 vs. Chicago
Indiana (2)
9-6 The Indiana Fever jumped up a spot in last week's power rankings after beating both the Seattle Storm and Atlanta Dream. This time out they drop back after losing two of the last three. However, you can't dismiss the fact that both of those losses came in very close games. Friday's loss to the Storm ended with the final score of 85-81, while Tuesday's ESPN 2 game against the Mystics ended with Washington edging out a 68-65 finish. Nevertheless, if the playoffs started today the Fever would make the cut. Up next is Chicago, a team that has yet to beat the Fever in three outings this season.
Next Three Games: 7/6 at Chicago, 7/8 vs. Tulsa, 7/14 vs. Connecticut
Connecticut (5)
10-6 For the first time this month, and only the second time in her young career, Tina Charles finished Thursday night's game against the Chicago Sky with less than 10 points. What's more, her streak of six consecutive double-doubles came to an end as well, as she finished the night with five points and six rebounds on 2-of-9 shooting. Surely by now teams know what Charles is capable of on a nightly basis. With Charles, the good games will always outweigh the bad ones. But that doesn't hide the fact that the Sun is currently going through a bit of a rough patch, more so a tag-team rhythm of win-loss-win-loss when you look at the last few games. Reason to worry? Hardly. Coach Thibault remains confident that his team will be where they want to be after the Stars at the Sun game on July 10th.
Next Three Games: 7/6 at San Antonio, 7/7 at Atlanta, 7/14 at Indiana
New York (8)
7-7 The New York Liberty is riding a season-best three-game win streak into Phoenix on Saturday. Cappie Pondexter has undoubtedly played a big part in the team's recent success, but a lot can also be said of Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who reached a season-high 14 points against the Sparks on Tuesday, and Nicole Powell, who has crossed the double-figure mark in two of her last three games. Pondexter's return to Phoenix will obviously be a big topic of discussion on Saturday, but the opportunity for New York to extend its win streak to four straight should not be overlooked.
Next Three Games: 7/3 at Phoenix, 7/6 at Seattle, 7/11 vs. Chicago
Chicago (9)
7-9 "We know if we're healthy, we can make the playoffs." That's what an optimistic Coach Steve Key said before Chicago's second game of the season back in May. His statement gained a little more momentum following Thursday night's 92-80 win over the Connecticut Sun. As a team, the Sky shot an impressive 58.6 percent from the field, as Sylvia Fowles (26), Tamera Young (15), Mistie Bass (13), Erin Thorn (12) and Jia Perkins (11) each finished with double figures. Count em up. That's five players finishing in double figures. Even rookie Epiphanny Prince contributed an efficient eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. Efforts like this one will only strengthen Chicago's chances at cracking the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Saturday's match against the Dream will surely be a test, as this season's series record stands at one a piece.
Next Three Games: 7/3 at Atlanta, 7/6 vs. Indiana, 7/11 at New York
Minnesota (7)
5-11 Seimone Augustus came back ready to play. Candice Wiggins was just starting to get into her groove. Just when things were really starting to look up for the Minnesota Lynx this season, Wiggins ruptured her Achilles against the Liberty and the Lynx watched a three-game win streak come to a halt on Saturday against the Silver Stars. Monica Wright has picked up some more minutes since, but that rookie rust is still apparent after she shot 1-for-8 and tallied only five points in Thursday's loss to the Dream. Augustus was the only player on Minnesota to finish in double figures with 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting. While others certainly did their part to chip in, the fact is Minnesota shot a combined 20-for-67 from the field, or 30 percent.
Next Three Games:7/8 vs. San Antonio, 7/14 vs. Atlanta, 7/17 vs. Seattle
San Antonio (10)
5-9 The Silver Stars just cannot find a rhythm right now. The team's longest win streak of two in a row came back on May 20th and 22nd in wins over Tulsa and Los Angeles, respectively. Since then it's been a piece-by-piece approach to winning games. A win one night, a loss the next night. Yet, as is the case with a lot of struggling teams in the West, the playoffs are not entirely out of the picture. Thursday's loss to the Sparks dropped San Antonio to 5-9 on the season. However, given the Storm's command of the West (which also includes a 10-0 conference record), the Stars find themselves in second place. The good part is the team still has time to find itself before the postseason, especially now that Jayne Appel is healthy and starting to get her feet wet.
Next Three Games: 7/6 vs. Connecticut, 7/8 at Minnesota, 7/14 at Chicago
Phoenix (6)
5-11 The Phoenix Mercury returned home on Thursday to host the Washington Mystics after dropping three on the road to extend the team's losing streak to five straight. Phoenix desperately needed a win on their home court. Unfortunately for the Mercury and the home crowd, it was not to be. Diana Taurasi recorded only 11 points on the night on 5-of-12 shooting in her first game back with the team since injuring her back earlier in the week. Taurasi drained just one three-pointer on the night, but it came with .5 seconds left in the game to pull the Mercury within one. Unfortunately for the Mercury, Washington would hang in there behind two clutch free throws from Katie Smith to seal the win and hand Phoenix its sixth consecutive loss. Despite all that, things remain wide open in the West and Phoenix is still in playoff contention.
Next Three Games: 7/3 vs. New York, 7/6 at Los Angeles, 7/14 vs. Seattle
Los Angeles (11)
4-11 Since losing Candace Parker for the season with a shoulder injury, the Los Angeles Sparks had yet to register a win in four straight games. That all changed Thursday night against the Silver Stars, when Tina Thompson scored 24 points and hauled in 10 rebounds to power the Sparks to a 73-63 win. If it hasn't been stressed enough, here it is one more time: Struggling teams in the West are still in playoff contention. Thursday's win,combined with losses from Phoenix and Minnesota, allowed Los Angeles the opportunity to pick up a game in the standings. The next three games on the schedule are intra-conference matches that provide ample opportunity for LA to climb up the standings. Depending on how the chips fall, LA could move up a spot or two by the time the next installment of team rankings rolls out.
Next Three Games: 7/3 vs. Seattle, 7/6 vs. Phoenix, 7/13 at Tulsa
Tulsa (12)
3-12 Bad turned to worse for Tulsa over the past week, as the losing streak has now extended to nine straight games. Scholanda Robinson remains the top producer for the Shock, but Tulsa's concerns aren't so much on the offensive side of the ball as they are on the defensive end. Tulsa ranks 11th in the league in points allowed per game at 89.87. Only the Phoenix Mercury is worse, but in Phoenix's defense they still remain the number one offensive team in the league, averaging 91.53 ppg. Tulsa ranks fifth on offense with 80.80 per game. The next game against Washington will be a tough one for the Shock, who haven't won a home game since defeating the Lynx on June 4th.
Next Three Games: 7/3 vs. Washington, 7/8 at Indiana, 7/13 vs. Los Angeles