Atlanta on the Move
By Scott Stanchak,

Here's where each team stands in our Power Rankings as we enter the final month of the 2010 regular season:


TEAM (last week) W / L NOTES
Seattle (1)
21-2 Is it safe to assume yet that the road to the WNBA Finals will travel through Seattle? The percentage for �Yes� increases as the season progresses. The Storm�s 21-2 record is an achievement in itself. But so is clinching the Western Conference with more than a month still left on the schedule. The rest of the West is most definitely gunning for second or third place, because I don�t think anyone wants to take on the Storm in the first round.
Next Three Games: 7/30 vs. Chicago, 8/01 at Minnesota, 8/3 at Tulsa
Indiana (2)
16-7 It�s no wonder the best defensive team in the league is also one of the hottest. The Fever�s five-game win streak has propelled them to the top of the East, where they finished last season on their way to the WNBA Finals. Tamika Catchings has been the key ingredient for both teams, this year averaging 16.6 points to go with nearly six rebounds, four assists and three steals a night.
Next Three Games: 7/30 vs. Washington, 8/01 at Atlanta, 8/3 vs. New York
Atlanta (5)
16-9 The Dream haven�t been so bad either; they�ve just cooled off since their 14-5 start to the 2010 campaign. After losing four in a row --all to East opponents-- between July 14-21, Atlanta bounced back with victories against New York last Sunday and in Tulsa on Tuesday. The Tulsa game was also the third time this season the Dream have posted 100-plus points in a night. Sancho Lyttle had 20 points and 14 rebounds in that one. Angel McCoughtry, however, had the performance of the week with a 28-point, 10-rebound showing against the Liberty.
Next Three Games: 7/30 at Connecticut, 8/01 vs. Indiana, 9/03 vs. Washington
Connecticut (4)
13-10 The 88-78 win over Washington on Tuesday skips them ahead of their division mates this week. Nevertheless, Connecticut couldn�t move out of the fourth spot thanks to Atlanta�s jump back into the Top 3. The Sun meet Washington two more times over the next several weeks. They�re already 2-0 against the Mystics in 2010, so expect these games to have meaning for both teams in the fight for a playoff spot. Connecticut needs to cut their turnovers � a league-leading 14.5 a night � if they want to improve.
Next Three Games: 7/30 vs. Atlanta, 8/01 at New York, 8/03 at Minnesota
Washington (3)
13-10 There was no way the Mystics were holding on to the third spot in the rankings after dropping Saturday�s game against Indiana, Tuesday�s in Connecticut and Thursday�s versus San Antonio. The Mystics needed to win that trio of games to establish better positioning in the East, where they are now three games out of the lead. This Mystics team has the potential to be very good down the stretch, especially if Crystal Langhorne continues her stellar play. Let�s also credit their defense, which is surrendering the least amount of rebounds (28.22) and second-least points (73.61) a night.
Next Three Games: 7/30 at Indiana, 8/01 vs. Tulsa, 8/03 at Atlanta
New York (8)
12-11 I swear to you we�ll get to another Western Conference team. Eventually. The Liberty deserve the sixth spot though. Their success this season has been largely in part due to the outstanding play of All-Star Cappie Pondexter. The Liberty guard is marketing herself quite well -- something she hoped to attain by coming to the Big Apple -- with her play on the court, posting 20.8 points and almost five rebounds a night. Pondexter led the Liberty, who have won five of their last seven, with 26 points on Sunday in Atlanta.
Next Three Games: 7/30 vs. Los Angeles, 8/01 vs. Connecticut, 8/03 at Indiana
Chicago (6)
12-13 We close out the East teams with the Chicago Sky, who at 12-13 still have a better record than the West�s second-place team, the Phoenix Mercury. Sylvia Fowles has been outstanding for Chicago thus far. The Louisiana State product is in the league�s Top 5 in points (18 ppg) and rebounds (10.1 rpg). Fowles is also the number-one shot blocker (2.72 bpg) in the league today. It was a rough three games for the Sky since last week�s rankings though. They lost to New York by eight last Friday, won by three over San Antonio on Saturday, then dropped one by four against first-place Indiana on Tuesday. Seattle is coming up on Friday (July 30), and that�s going to be a tough match-up.
Next Three Games: 7/30 at Seattle, 8/01 at Phoenix, 8/04 at Los Angeles
Phoenix (7)
11-13 Don�t read too much into the Mercury�s number in the rankings; they�re still a good team. One team they�re not even close to as good as though is the Seattle Storm, who have their number this season�actually, who�s number do they not have? The Storm have knocked off the Mercury four times already, with one more meeting to go on August 20. Scoring leader Diana Taurasi (23.6 ppg) is doing just about all she can to help this team win. Also, the 17.2 points Penny Taylor averages is a career high for the veteran forward. That said, scoring isn�t an issue, it�s the amount they're giving up (94 ppg, worst in the league).
Next Three Games: 8/01 vs. Minnesota, 8/03 at San Antonio, 8/06 vs. San Antonio
San Antonio (9)
9-15 Squeaking out a �W� against one of the East�s top teams was an impressive feat on Thursday. Becky Hammon�s pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining sealed the 79-75 win over the Mystics. Thursday�s match-up also ended a three-game swing against their opposing conference, in which they finished 1-2. Three of the Silver Stars�s remaining 10 games are against the Mercury, including next Tuesday and Friday. Emerging from those games victorious will certainly help in their quest to stay in the playoff race.
Next Three Games: 7/30 at Tulsa, 8/03 vs. Phoenix, 8/08 at Phoenix
Los Angeles (11)
8-16 The Sparks have played themselves into playoff contention after notching just three wins in the first two months of the season. Even without star Candace Parker, Los Angeles has won three of their last four. Tuesday�s win in Minnesota was particularly impressive, as the Sparks held the Lynx to just 58 points on 26 percent from the field. Tina Thompson has also played well as of late, averaging 18 points over her last three games.
Next Three Games: 8/04 vs. Chicago, 8/06 vs. Tulsa, 8/08 vs. San Antonio
Minnesota (10)
7-16 Charde Houston put together an excellent game on Thursday, dropping 26 points and grabbing 13 boards in Minnesota�s 110-92 loss to Phoenix. Despite a 7-16 record, the Lynx are still in playoff contention, only 4.5 games behind the Mercury. Ending their five-game losing streak will be difficult though, as the team heads home for a Sunday contest with the Storm, their first of two meetings remaining on the season.
Next Three Games: 8/01 vs. Seattle, 9/03 vs. Connecticut, 8/07 at Chicago
Tulsa (12)
4-20 It�s been a really rough going for the Tulsa Shock so far. They had just one win in June and have only one in July, with a Friday night date with San Antonio at the BOK Center. They beat the Silver Stars on July 16, so a win is definitely not out of the question. Also this past week, the Shock traded Alexis Hornbuckle, the last remaining player from their Detroit days, to the Lynx for Rashanda McCants. I�d hate to blame the turnover on their lack of success, but I can�t help but imagine where they�d be with a consistent rotation on the floor each night.
Next Three Games: 7/30 vs. San Antonio, 8/01 at Washington, 8/03 vs. Seattle