Minnesota on the Move
By Frank Della Femina, WNBA.com

2010 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: 7/16

TEAM (last week) W / L NOTES
Seattle (1)
17-2 Wednesday's 111-107 triple-overtime win over the Phoenix Mercury stretched Seattle's win streak to eight straight. If there's one thing they took from the game, other than a hard-earned 'W,' it's that teams will be pushing even harder in the second half of the season to try and not only hand the Storm a loss, but to also make a strong playoff push. Next on tap for Seattle is the Lynx, a team that already handed the Atlanta Dream a loss and Conference demotion Wednesday afternoon. It'll be interesting to see what Minnesota throws at Seattle on Saturday.
Next Three Games: 7/17 at Minnesota, 7/20 at San Antonio, 7/25 vs. Tulsa
Atlanta (2)
14-6 "It's not about how you start, it's how you finish. So we're just trying to finish out the season strong." Words to live by for all 12 WNBA teams at this point in the season, courtesy of Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the second half didn't start out as planned, losing to the Lynx Wednesday afternoon in heartbreaking fashion. There's still plenty of basketball to be played. It may not have been the most ideal way to charge into the second half but Atlanta still has a two-game lock on first place in the East. Granted the race for playoff contention remains tight as ever in the conference, but a loss to Minnesota doesn't harm the Dream's intraconference record. With the next three games on the road, against Eastern teams no less, Atlanta will look to open up the lead in the East and potentially sink a few other teams in the process.
Next Three Games: 7/16 at Indiana, 7/17 at Connecticut, 7/21 at Washington
Washington (3)
12-6 "One game you're in first, one loss you're in third." That's what head coach Julie Plank had to say following Thursday's loss to the Liberty. Luckily for the Mystics, the one loss didn't drop them in the standings. Washington was holding down second place in the East heading into the game and remained in second despite the poor outcome. If there's one area Plank would like to see her team improve on in the second leg of the season it's protecting the ball. Washington ranks third in the league in turnovers with 17.41 per game. In close games that can make or break a team. Thursday against the Liberty, Washington registered a total of 20 turnovers. That's the risk a team takes when they attempt to spread the ball out across the court. Overall, the game plan is working for Washington. It just needs a little fine tuning.
Next Three Games: 7/18 vs. Chicago, 7/21 vs. Atlanta, 7/24 vs. Indiana
Indiana (4)
11-7 Indiana remains the league's top defensive team, holding opponents to an average of 70.61 points per game. If not for such a strong defensive system led by the likes of Tamika Catchings and her league-best 2.72 steals per game, who's to say where the Fever would stand? The trick for Indiana is getting other teams to play their game. Friday night's match against the Atlanta Dream should be an interesting one, as it pits Indy's top defense against the league's number two offense. In two previous meetings this season, the Dream and Fever each captured a win. This matchup has the look and feel of a playoff game.
Next Three Games: 7/16 vs. Atlanta, 7/18 at New York, 7/22 vs. Los Angeles
Connecticut (5)
11-8 "We surprisingly gelled kind of quick in the beginning," said Renee Montgomery. "But then we had a couple of players that were injured and we had to 're-gel,' and we're still working on that right now." Well said. Head coach Mike Thibault remained confident in the weeks leading up to the Stars at the Sun weekend that his team would be where he wanted them to be after the break. Knee surgery for Anete Jekabsone-Zogota aside, it would seem to be the case after just one game. But don't overlook the fact that the one game was against the Indiana Fever, an intra-conference team looking to gain some ground. So far on the season, the Sun has a 2-1 series lead over the defensive powerhouse that is Indy. Wednesday's win speaks volumes for the young cores ability to 're-gel' heading into the second half.
Next Three Games: 7/17 vs. Atlanta, 7/20 vs. New York, 7/24 vs. Los Angeles
New York (8)
9-9 The pieces are finally starting to come together for the Liberty. The second-half run has already started off with two wins over conference rivals and, most importantly, the Liberty is finding ways to win by varying up the scoring. Maybe Sunday's win over the Sky isn't the best example, a game in which Cappie Pondexter dropped 30 of the team's 57 total points, but the Thursday afternoon match against the Mystics hints at a system looking to spread the ball around a bit more. Yes, Cappie scored 17, but Janel McCarville racked up a 16-12 double-double and rookie Kalana Greene finished with 11. The variation in scoring will ultimately make the Liberty a harder team to defend, which could certainly bode well as New York aims to make a playoff run. The next three games, all of them in the Eastern Conference, will stand as a big test for the Liberty.
Next Three Games: 7/18 vs. Indiana, 7/20 at Connecticut, 7/23 @ Chicago
Minnesota (10)
7-11 Minnesota is a textbook example of a team that is just keeps finding ways to survive. Injuries put a damper on the Lynx's start to the season and just as players looked to be on the mend, a new batch kicked up. On Wednesday, Rebekkah Brunson saved the day for the Lynx with some last-second heroics and Seimone Augustus showed why she remains one of the purest shooters in the league as she dropped 22. But the part about Minnesota that may still be overlooked; and again, this traces back to the rough start, is just how good the team has been as of late. Minnesota has one five of its last seven, knocking off teams like New York and Atlanta in an effort to piece together win streaks. Now, winners in two straight and the first game of the second half, it's time for the Lynx to strap in and make a playoff run. Sitting in second place with just a little over a month to play doesn't hurt either.
Next Three Games: 7/17 vs. Seattle, 7/22 vs. San Antonio, 7/24 vs. Phoenix
Chicago (7)
9-11 It may be a lot of pressure to put on one player, but Sylvia Fowles is the driving force behind the Chicago Sky. Don't let that disparage the fact that Jia Perkins, Dominique Canty and the rookie Epiphanny Prince are certainly carrying their weight, but when you get down to the bare bones of this playoff-hungry franchise, the team's success starts and ends with Fowles. Chicago didn't come out of the break with a win against the Liberty on Sunday, but they did turn things around in their favor Wednesday afternoon with an 88-61 blowout over the Silver Stars. This of course is a welcome sight, but so to is the ability to let Fowles catch her breath on the bench while some of the reserves received a bit of face time.
Next Three Games: 7/16 vs. Los Angeles, 7/18 at Washington, 7/23 vs. New York
Phoenix (6)
7-12 Phoenix, who went into the break with two-straight wins, fought Seattle tooth and nail during a matinee match Wednesday afternoon. Diana Taurasi scored 44 points and Phoenix received 18 points a piece from DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree, but in the end the Storm pulled out the win to improve to a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference, while the Mercury were met with another loss that dropped them to third in the West. One of the positives Phoenix can take from the loss is embedded in the fact that they hung with the league's best team through an entire game and three extra periods of play before coming this close to picking up the win. Debilitating as it may be in the losses column, it should provide ample confidence for Phoenix as they take on the Shock in two straight.
Next Three Games: 7/17 vs. Tulsa, 7/22 at Tulsa, 7/24 at Minnesota
San Antonio (9)
6-11 "We�ll just put the first half in the past," said Sophia Young at the Stars at the Sun game last weekend. "We lost a few games that we should have won and we�re not very consistent with what we do, and that�s a little challenging." Not only did the Silver Stars open up the second half of the season with a loss to the Sky, but San Antonio has registered only one win over the last five games. To top it off, the team had a scare right before the break when Becky Hammon left the game against the Lynx with what was labeled a quad injury. It's not the first time this season Hammon has suffered a leg injury, and it's also not the first time the Silver Stars have tried getting past the injury bug. Ruth Riley, currently out with a broken finger, will provide a little help on the boards once she returns to action over the next two weeks or so. Rookie Jayne Appel, who started the season injured, is slowly but surely working her way into the fold. And although Hammon played Wednesday against the Sky, who's to say if she's fighting through the pain? This team will continue to soldier on with the hopes of having it all figured out by the postseason.
Next Three Games: 7/16 vs. Tulsa, 7/18 vs. Los Angeles, 7/20 vs. Seattle
Los Angeles (11)
5-13 Earlier in the season Los Angeles had Candace Parker and Tina Thompson doing the brunt of the work with little help from a supporting cast. With Parker out for the season, LA's game plan had to adapt. Thompson continues to put up her points, averaging 13.8 per game, but players like Noelle Quinn, who has recorded double figures in seven of her last eight games, DeLisha Milton-Jones, who has done the same in six straight, and more recently the rookie Andrea Riley, who dropped 14 Tuesday against the Shock, are starting to chip in as well. As the end of the season quickly approaches, the Sparks are not left with much time to figure it all out. But they have tipped off the second half on the right foot, with a win over the Shock. It's not over yet, and the Sparks have definitely not given up on making a playoff push.
Next Three Games: 7/16 at Chicago, 7/18 at San Antonio, 7/20 vs. Tulsa
Tulsa (12)
3-15 There's still time left in the season, so you can't write the Shock off entirely, but as of right now things aren't looking too good. In WNBA.com's 12 Questions for 12 Teams in 2010, the question surrounding the Shock's inaugural season in Tulsa was centered on just how quickly the team could pave a new path. On Tuesday, Los Angeles handed Tulsa its 12th straight loss of the season. Yet despite that downturn, a win at the right time (and a few losses to other teams in the West) can potentially put the Shock in playoff contention.
Next Three Games: 7/16 at San Antonio, 7/17 at Phoenix, 7/20 at Los Angeles