Seattle Holds Steady at No. 1
By Frank Della Femina,


TEAM (last week) W / L NOTES
Seattle (1)
19-2 If 10 wins in a row isn't enough to give Seattle an opportunity to completely pull away for good in the Western Conference, then perhaps a three-game home stand and the chance to extend it to 13 straight will. Thanks to the Sparks losing to the Fever Thursday night, Seattle has officially claimed a playoff spot in the West. That's impressive in and of itself given the fact that there's still a good month of basketball left to play. At this rate locking up home court in the West may not be too far off either.
Next Three Games: 7/25 vs. Tulsa, 7/27 vs. Phoenix, 7/30 vs. Chicago
Indiana (4)
14-7 The Indiana Fever looks good. The kind of good that makes you think that if the playoffs started tomorrow they'd be strong contenders in the championship game. But before we can jump to any sort of conclusions, the Fever first has to test its post-break self in the East. After all, the path to the championship will require Indiana to beat its conference foes. Indy's next six games are against Eastern Conference teams. If the Fever is looking to test its playoff readiness, now would be the time to do it. If Indiana comes out clean following the next six games, then the rest of the conference will have to take cover.
Next Three Games: 7/24 at Washington, 7/27 vs. Chicago, 7/30 vs. Washington
Washington (3)
13-7 At six-foot-two, Crystal Langhorne isn't the biggest center in the league but she is finding ways to get it done. As Scott Stanchak wrote earlier this week, Langhorne makes the Mystics contenders. With that said, the common knowledge in basketball circles is that no player can do it alone. In addition to Langhorne, the Mystics have the added firepower of Monique Currie, Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith. At second place in the East, the Mystics are primed for postseason play. If the team keeps doing what it's been doing all season long and stays on top of itself (ie. players don't allow one another to sit back and relax), postseason play is in Washington's future.
Next Three Games: 7/24 vs. Indiana, 7/27 at Connecticut, 7/29 vs. San Antonio
Connecticut (5)
12-9 Tuesday's loss to the Liberty in which Tina Charles tallied "only" 14 points and six rebounds is testament to the fact that if a team can single out Charles than it stands a good chance of winning. I don't think the Liberty necessarily exploited a flaw in Connecticut's system, they just managed to do it better on that given night than other teams have done throughout the course of the season. Even still, the loss to the Liberty marks the team's first since returning from the break. Los Angeles is on tap next, followed by two intraconference games. Either way you look at it, Connecticut remains a contender for first place in the East.
Next Three Games: 7/24 vs. Los Angeles, 7/27 vs. Washington, 7/30 vs. Atlanta
Atlanta (2)
14-9 Atlanta went into the Stars at the Sun break with a hold on first place in the Eastern Conference. Now, two weeks later, the team has lost four straight and currently sits in third. While the race does remain close in the East, a drop in the overall league standings for Atlanta translates to a drop in these power rankings as well. There is still plenty of time for the Dream to jump back into the mix of things, but there is also time for them to drop even further if they don't turn things around quickly.
Next Three Games: 7/25 vs. New York, 7/27 at Tulsa, 7/30 at Connecticut
Chicago (8)
11-11 Chicago is battling with New York in a continuous effort to step up from the East's basement. Friday night is an opportunity for one of the two to pull away by at least a game (for now), and the Sky knows the importance of that single effort. The Sky has won three straight and has shown a habit of extending that to four on two separate occasions this season. Even still, the Sky is the only team in the East with double-figure losses within conference play (6-11). Only five more intraconference games remain on Chicago's schedule. If they want to finish at the .500 mark in that area, they can't afford to lose in the East for the remainder of the season.
Next Three Games: 7/23 vs. New York, 7/24 at San Antonio, 7/27 at Indiana
Phoenix (9)
9-12 Phoenix beat Tulsa on June 12th by the final of 116-84, thereby setting a new WNBA single-game scoring record . Thursday, in a rematch and the final meeting of the season against Tulsa, Phoenix broke its own record, setting a new single-game scoring record with a grand total of 123 points. With the series sweep complete, Phoenix will now look to make a run for home-court advantage in the postseason. Hopefully, for Phoenix's sake, they don't follow up this latest milestone the same way they did following that record night in June, whereby the team proceeded to drop six-straight games. Now would not be a good time to do that.
Next Three Games: 7/24 at Minnesota, 7/27 at Seattle, 7/29 vs. Minnesota
New York (6)
10-10 New York snagged a big win in overtime Tuesday night against the Connecticut Sun in a game that had "devastating loss" written all over it toward the end of regulation. When Kalana Greene fouled Renee Montgomery on a three-point attempt in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter, you could feel the Liberty starting to clam up. And when Montgomery came right back and forced overtime on a ridiculous three-point shot with only 4.2 seconds remaining in the game, it was obvious that it would take a monstrous effort on the Liberty's behalf to not fold in OT. But they showed that effort. They didn't roll over and die and, in turn, pulled away with a much-needed intraconference win. Things are close as ever in the East but New York's never-say-die attitude could pay dividends as we head down the home stretch.
Next Three Games: 7/24 at Washington, 7/27 vs. Chicago, 7/30 vs. Washington
San Antonio (10)
8-13 Teams in the East are good. We know that by now. So for San Antonio to have to play against the East in three straight games, it's going to take a strong effort to come out on top. Given Seattle's guaranteed playoff spot, five teams will now compete for three spots in the postseason. If you factor out Tulsa's inaugural struggles, you could even narrow that field down to four. San Antonio has to find its consistency, an area the team has struggled in throughout the year, if it wants to be one of those teams in the postseason
Next Three Games: 7/24 vs. Chicago, 7/27 at New York, 7/29 at Washington
Minnesota (7)
7-13 With the way things are panning out in the Wild West, Minnesota would be a lock for the postseason if the playoffs started today. This is both a good and a bad thing. Good: It would be a hard-fought berth for a team that struggled through a series of injuries and losing streaks to get to the playoffs. Bad: Minnesota would draw Seattle in the first round, a squad any team would rather see in the second round or, preferably, not at all. However, Minnesota did play Seattle well last Saturday in a close 73-71 loss. That's definitely something to consider. Close as the Lynx may be to cracking the postseason, they are also teetering on the fine line between fourth and fifth place, challenged only by the Sparks. But this team has been resilient all year. They don't need to be told what it's going to take to extend their season.
Next Three Games: 7/24 vs. Phoenix, 7/27 vs. Los Angeles, 7/29 at Phoenix
Los Angeles (11)
6-16 When the camera scanned over the Los Angeles Sparks bench Thursday night following the team's loss to the Indiana Fever, the looks on the players' faces said it all. Fixated eyes staring dead ahead. No smiling faces. No jokes or grins. To say this has not been an easy season for the Sparks would be an understatement. Losing Candace Parker for the year certainly didn't help, and Tina Thompson is starting to feel the pressure. Thursday her emotions boiled over to the point of receiving a technical, but it's that kind of fire you'd expect from a veteran leader like Thompson. If anyone is going to right the Los Angeles ship it will be her. The only question is, can she get it done?
Next Three Games: 7/24 at Connecticut, 7/27 at Minnesota, 7/30 at New York
Tulsa (12)
4-18 The 40 minutes of hell that Nolan Richardson is trying to implement in Tulsa isn't going to mature overnight. Given the fact that this is the franchise's first season in a new city, with new fans and a new look, you have to allot some time to grow. The system may be backfiring on the Shock now, but who's to say what may be the case next year? Let's not forget that Atlanta didn't fair all too well in its first season either, and then in just one season managed to turn everything around to claim the franchise's first playoff berth. The 2010 season may not extend to the postseason for Tulsa, but it's certainly not a wasted year.
Next Three Games: 7/25 at Seattle, 7/27 vs. Atlanta, 7/30 vs. San Antonio