Sparks Making Push in West
By Frank Della Femina,

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


TEAM (last week) W / L NOTES
Seattle (1)
19-10 The Storm has officially locked up home court for the entire playoff run. What more does Seattle have to prove during the regular season? Head coach Brian Agler is prepared to give his starters a rest in an effort to keep them primed for the playoffs. That game plan was already implemented Tuesday against the Dream and resulted in an 80-70 win. Swin Cash, Lauren Jackson, Camille Little, Tanisha Wright and Sue Bird each logged less than 25 minutes. Expect to see more of that over the last few games.
Remaining Games: 8/13 at Connecticut, 8/15 at Washington, 8/17 vs. Minnesota, 8/20 at Phoenix, 8/21 vs. Los Angeles
Indiana (4)
19-10 Last week Indiana dropped to fourth in the Power Rankings after dropping three straight, and this week they jump back up to the number two slot after winning three straight. What's more, the team now holds a 1.5 game lead over New York and Atlanta heading into Friday night's action. It's still too close to call Indiana the top team in the East, but they have plenty of opportunities to prove that over the last five games. Perhaps locking up hometown hero Katie Douglas will give the team just the motivation it needs to close out strong.
Remaining Games: 8/13 vs. Phoenix, 8/15 at Connecticut, 8/17 at New York, 8/20 at San Antonio, 8/22 vs. Minnesota
New York (5)
17-11 The Liberty puts a six-game win streak on the line Friday night as they take on the Dream in Atlanta. With both teams tied for second, a win will could help improve the chances of securing home court advantage in a possible first round playoff matchup. Since returning from the break, New York has truly started to take on a playoff form. That much is evident in their 10-2 second-half record. Even if the Liberty tops the Dream on Friday, their next two games against the Mercury and Fever (both at home) aren't exactly a walk in Central Park either.
Remaining Games:8/13 at Atlanta, 8/14 vs. Phoenix, 8/17 vs. Indiana, 8/19 vs. Tulsa, 8/20 at Washington, 8/22 vs. Connecticut
Atlanta (2)
18-12 Three straight losses sends Atlanta down to the fourth spot in the Power Rankings. Making matters worse, those three losses came against conference opponents (Washington, Indiana), while the third came against the Storm. Had the Dream managed to pull out wins over the Mystics and Fever, they'd be in first place with just four games remaining. All season long free throws have posed as Atlanta's achilles' heel. The team's 71-percent average is just one percent better than the last place Shock. Tuesday against the Storm, Atlanta left 11 points at the line on 22-of-33 shooting. It's not far fetched to think teams may try and exploit this apparent weakness.
Remaining Games: 8/13 vs. New York, 8/14 at Chicago, 8/17 vs. Chicago, 8/22 vs. Washington
Washington (3)
17-12 Washington's latest win over Connecticut was clutch. It was just as much a must-win game for the Mystics as it was for the Sun. Had Washington lost, then Connecticut would have gained a game on them in the East and edged closer to that fourth seed. Now, as Washington holds a three-game lead on fourth place with five games remaining, it's all a matter of either holding onto that spot or moving up in what is truly turning into a four-horse race in the East.
Remaining Games: 8/13 vs. Minnesota, 8/15 vs. Seattle, 8/17 at San Antonio, 8/20 vs. New York, 8/22 at Atlanta
Phoenix (6)
14-15 Phoenix is 0-4 against the Storm this season with one more regular season matchup remaining, so it'd probably serve the Mercury best to steer clear of that fourth place slot in an effort to avoid a first round meeting with Seattle. Two straight losses isn't the best way of going about that process and a tough schedule including meetings against three of the league's top teams doesn't make it any easier. Although the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference standings is undoubtedly Seattle's, it's up to Phoenix to claim the No. 2 or even No. 3 before season's end.
Remaining Games: 8/13 at Indiana, 8/14 at New York, 8/17 at Los Angeles, 8/20 vs. Seattle, 8/22 at San Antonio
Minnesota (8)
11-18 Minnesota came within one heart-wrenching Tina Thompson shot away from picking up a win Thursday night. Unfortunately for Minnesota, these types of outcomes have become somewhat commonplace in the second half of the season. Since returning from break, Minnesota has lost a number of games by this much. There were two consecutive two-point losses to the Storm and Silver Stars in July, followed shortly after by a three-point loss to the Mercury. Just last weekend Minnesota lost by two against the Liberty, sandwiching a win against the Silver Stars between another one-point loss to the Sparks Thursday night. Despite all that, Minny still holds a half-game lead over the Sparks for fourth place in the West.
Remaining Games: 8/13 at Washington, 8/15 vs. San Antonio, 8/17 at Seattle, 8/20 at Los Angeles, 8/22 at Indiana
San Antonio (7)
11-18 San Antonio heads into Friday night's action in a tie for third with Minnesota, which ultimately means they also only stand half a game over the Sparks. With the exception of Tulsa, the remaining schedule is not exactly a friendly one. However, San Antonio is 2-2 against Minnesota and 1-0 against Washington so far on the season. On the flip side, the Silver Stars are also 0-1 against the Fever and 1-2 against the Mercury. This is going to be a close.
Remaining Games: 8/13 vs. Tulsa, 8/15 at Minnesota, 8/17 vs. Washington, 8/20 vs. Indiana, 8/22 vs. Phoenix
Los Angeles (10)
11-19 Last week when Los Angeles remained half a game back on the Lynx I said the Sparks would have to close the season out strong if they wanted to secure a postseason berth. Now, seven days later and still half a game back, that theory still applies. Losses to San Antonio and Indiana prevented Los Angeles from launching into the top four. Depending on how the cards fall, the 8/20 game against Minnesota could be the biggest game out of Los Angeles' last four. Keep an eye open for that one.
Remaining Games: 8/14 at Tulsa, 8/17 vs. Phoenix, 8/20 vs. Minnesota, 8/21 at Seattle
Connecticut (9)
14-15 Mark Bodenrader said it best in this past week's Rookie Rankings: Tina Charles is not in charge of her postseason fate. For a rookie campaign, Charles has easily put in one of the most dominating performances the league has ever seen. In fact, as indicated by her giving chase to the rebounding record, that assessment isn't limited to just rookies. But now as Connecticut sits three games out of fourth place with only five games remaining, the light shining on postseason play is getting dimmer and dimmer.
Remaining Games:8/13 vs. Seattle, 8/15 vs. Indiana, 8/17 vs. Tulsa, 8/20 at Chicago, 8/22 at New York
Chicago (11)
13-17 Chicago may not be officially out of postseason contention just yet, but one must admit that the horizon is not exactly full of promise. But not all was lost for the Sky in 2010. Sylvia Fowles put in a monster year and, for the first time in her career, stayed healthy long enough to show everyone exactly what she's capable of. Unfortunately the same could not be said of Shameka Christon, whose season was cut short with an eye injury back in June. Had she stayed healthy it's not hard to imagine the Sky in the postseason.
Remaining Games: 8/14 vs. Atlanta, 8/17 at Atlanta, 8/20 vs. Connecticut, 8/21 at Tulsa
Tulsa (12)
5-24 Tulsa became the first team eliminated from postseason contention just last week. Sitting six games out of fourth place with only five games remaining guarantees Tulsa will have a great shot at next year's draft. Stocking up on picks could make Tulsa next year's version of the 2010 Draft Day Connecticut Sun, which is to say a team ripe with talent and fully prepared to compete in the future.
Remaining Games: 8/13 at San Antonio, 8/14 vs. Los Angeles, 8/17 at Connecticut, 8/19 at New York, 8/21 vs. Chicago