Note: WNBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Tuesday during the season, are the opinion of this writer and do not reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.
Are some games really bigger than others?
Of the 204 regular season games that will comprise the 2019 WNBA season, which ones have the most value?
Value – much like beauty – is really in the eye of the beholder.
When the schedule is released during the offseason, we all circle dates of the key matchups we can’t wait to see. I’ve written many of these articles, but there is an inherent problem to the premise. Those articles are based on expectations for the upcoming season and are not in the moment.
For example, here is the second paragraph of the 2019 schedule announcement from Dec. 18, 2018:
- “Live coverage by ESPN’s networks begins on ABC on Saturday, May 25, when Sue Bird, reigning MVP Breanna Stewart and the defending champion Seattle Storm host former MVP Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury in a rematch of the thrilling 2018 WNBA semifinals series that stretched to a fifth and deciding game. Tip-off is at 3:30 p.m. ET.”
That is a great game to schedule to open the season. However, as we all know, none of the three superstars listed in that paragraph were able to play due to injury. Even so, it turned out to be an important game for the defending champions. By beating Phoenix (a team selected by 25% of the league’s GMs to win the 2019 WNBA title) without Bird and Stewart, the Storm made a statement that they were not going to be an easy out this season, something that has proved true the rest of the way.
Statement games are important. Even if they only count as a single win in the standings, getting an important win over a top-tier opponent can do a lot for a team. Our latest example comes from the team on the opposite side of our first example – the Phoenix Mercury.
On Sunday, the Mercury defeated the Washington Mystics 103-82 in Phoenix behind a monster game from Brittney Griner as she finished with 26 points on 11-14 shooting, nine rebounds, a career-high eight assists and four blocks. The Mercury entered the game at 10-10 as they have been hit hard by the injury bug. Not only has Diana Taurasi missed practically the entire season following back surgery, but the Mercury were also without Briann January, Essence Carson and Sancho Lyttle.
The shorthanded Mercury had lost two straight entering Sunday’s game against a hot Mystics squad that was riding a five-game win streak. Picking up a 21-point win over a Mystics squad that has nearly been unbeatable with Elena Delle Donne in the lineup (they are now 15-3 when EDD plays) has to be a great confidence booster for Phoenix as they wait for reinforcements to return once they get healthy. The win pushed the Mercury back over .500 and right in the middle of a stacked playoff race as they try to secure their seventh straight postseason trip.
What will be the next statement game? Sunday’s clash between the red-hot Connecticut Sun – winners of seven straight – and the Las Vegas Aces has all the makings of a marquee matchup. While the Sun have the best record in the league entering this week at 16-6, they are just 5-5 away from Mohegan Sun. Can they get a road win over a formidable opponent to keep their momentum going? Or will it be the Aces – who are playing shorthanded with A’ja Wilson still sidelined with an ankle injury – that will make a statement of their own by cooling off the hottest team in the W at the moment?
Two teams moved up two spots in this week’s rankings – the aforementioned Connecticut Sun and the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Sun went 3-0 this week to extend their win streak to seven games, matching their longest streak of the season. Sandwiched between those two seven-game win streaks was a five-game losing streak. But those troubles seem to be in the rear-view mirror as the Sun have gone nearly a month since their last loss (July 10 at Atlanta).
The Sparks went 2-0 this week and have won three straight games as they climb the standings and the power rankings. Like many teams, L.A. has been dealing with injuries this season, but saw Candace Parker, Alexis Jones and Maria Vadeeva return to the lineup on Aug. 1. Of course, Chiney Ogwumike, Alana Beard and Riquna Williams are all still out, so another boost could be on the horizon.
Las Vegas and Seattle both drop two spots in this week’s rankings with the Aces falling out of the top spot for the first time since week seven.
Las Vegas went 2-2 this week, with both of their wins coming against a six-win Wings squad and their losses coming to Los Angeles and Washington. The loss to the Mystics on Monday was the conclusion of a game that began on July 5 but was postponed at halftime due to an earthquake. The Aces trailed by 15 entering Monday’s second half and played again without Wilson (ankle) or Liz Cambage (rest), and the result was a 29-point loss in a game that may prove to be important. Monday’s win clinched the season series for the Mystics two games to one; should the teams finish the season tied in the standings, that would be the first tiebreaker used. Considering the teams are currently at Nos. 2 and 3 in the playoff picture, there are playoff byes that could be on the line next month.
Seattle went 0-2 this week with losses to Washington and Los Angeles; dating back to before the All-Star break, the Storm have lost three straight on the heels of a four-game win streak. After facing a pair of teams with a combined 28 wins last week (Washington 15, L.A. 13), the Storm face a pair of opponents entering this week with a combined 14 wins (Dallas 6, New York 8) as they try to get back on track.
This Week’s Rankings
1. Connecticut Sun (16-6)
- Previous Rank: 3
- Last Week: (3-0) W vs. CHI 100-94; W vs. PHX 68-62; W at NYL 94-79
- This Week: Fri. 8/9 at MIN; Sun. 8/11 at LVA
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 99.8 (2); DefRtg: 94.0 (2); NetRtg: 5.9 (3); eFG%: 46.9 (5); Pace: 95.59 (5)
2. Washington Mystics (15-7)
- Previous Rank: 2
- Last Week: (3-1) W vs. PHX 99-93; W at SEA 99-79; L at PHX 103-82; W at LVA 99-70
- This Week: Thur. 8/8 vs. IND; Sun 8/11 vs. MIN
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 110.4 (1); DefRtg: 99.4 (10); NetRtg: 11.1 (1); eFG%: 52.4 (1); Pace: 94.07 (7)
3. Las Vegas Aces (15-8)
- Previous Rank: 1
- Last Week: (2-2) W vs. DAL 86-54; L at LAS 76-68; W at DAL 75-70; L vs. WAS 99-70
- This Week: Fri. 8/9 vs. CHI; Sun. 8/11 vs. CON
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 96.9 (6); DefRtg: 90.9 (1); NetRtg: 6.0 (2); eFG%: 46.8 (6); Pace: 98.85 (1)
4. Los Angeles Sparks (13-8)
- Previous Rank: 6
- Last Week: (2-0) W vs. LVA 76-68; W vs. SEA 83-75
- This Week: Thur. 8/8 vs. PHX; Sun 8/11 vs. CHI
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 96.8 (7); DefRtg: 95.9 (5); NetRtg: 0.8 (5); eFG%: 46.8 (7); Pace: 96.28 (4)
5. Chicago Sky (12-9)
- Previous Rank: 4
- Last Week: (1-1) L at CON 100-94; W at ATL 87-75
- This Week: Wed. 8/7 vs. NYL; Fri. 8/9 at LVA; Sun. 8/11 at LAS
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 98.5 (4); DefRtg: 97.8 (8); NetRtg: 0.7 (6); eFG%: 50.1 (2); Pace: 98.34 (2)
6. Phoenix Mercury (11-10)
- Previous Rank: 7
- Last Week: (1-2) L at WAS 99-93; L at CON 68-62; W vs. WAS 103-82
- This Week: Thur. 8/8 at LAS; Sat. 8/10 vs. DAL
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 99.4 (3); DefRtg: 97.7 (6); NetRtg: 1.7 (4); eFG%: 48.1 (3); Pace: 91.71 (12)
7. Seattle Storm (12-11)
- Previous Rank: 5
- Last Week: (0-2) L vs. WAS 99-79; L at LAS 83-75
- This Week: Thur. 8/8 vs. DAL; Sun. 8/11 at NYL
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 95.8 (8); DefRtg: 95.5 (4); NetRtg: 0.3 (8); eFG%: 46.6 (8); Pace: 94.07 (8)
8. Minnesota Lynx (10-11)
- Previous Rank: 8
- Last Week: (0-1) L at IND 86-75
- This Week: Tue. 8/6 at ATL; Fri. 8/9 vs. CON; Sun 8/11 at WAS
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 95.7 (9); DefRtg: 95.2 (3); NetRtg: 0.5 (7); eFG%: 47.8 (4); Pace: 94.94 (6)
9. Indiana Fever (8-15)
- Previous Rank: 10
- Last Week: (2-0) W vs. ATL 61-59; W vs. MIN 86-75
- This Week: Thur. 8/8 at WAS; Sat. 8/10 vs. ATL
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 98.2 (5); DefRtg: 100.9 (11); NetRtg: -2.7 (9); eFG%: 46.0 (9); Pace: 93.06 (10)
10. New York Liberty (8-13)
- Previous Rank: 9
- Last Week: (0-2) L at DAL 87-64; L vs. CON 94-79
- This Week: Wed. 8/7 at CHI; Sun 8/11 vs. SEA
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 94.3 (10); DefRtg: 101.7 (12); NetRtg: -7.4 (11); eFG%: 45.1 (10); Pace: 98.00 (3)
11. Dallas Wings (6-16)
- Previous Rank: 11
- Last Week: (1-2) L at LVA 86-54; W vs. NYL 87-64; L vs. LVA 75-70
- This Week: Thur. 8/8 at SEA; Sat. 8/10 at PHX
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 91.3 (11); DefRtg: 97.7 (7); NetRtg: -6.5 (10); eFG%: 42.7 (11); Pace: 91.94 (11)
12. Atlanta Dream (5-17)
- Previous Rank: 12
- Last Week: (0-2) L at IND 61-59; L vs. CHI 87-75
- This Week: Tue. 8/6 vs. MIN; Sat. 8/10 at IND
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 88.1 (12); DefRtg: 99.2 (9); NetRtg: -11.1 (12); eFG%: 40.6 (12); Pace: 93.99 (9)