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Inside The W: Plotting A Playoff Run

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Coming off the smashing success of the 2018 All-Star Game in Minneapolis, the WNBA returns to the riveting drama of the regular season, with three more weeks for the packed standings to sort themselves out before the playoffs. Don’t be shocked if the final playoff seeds are not until the last day of the regular season on Aug. 19, with all 12 teams in action.

To recap, only five games separate the top eight teams that are currently in playoff position. All but two teams, the Seattle Storm and the Atlanta Dream, have double-digit losses. With the top four seeds getting byes – top 2 into the semifinals, seeds No. 3 and  No. 4 into the second round – teams are not only looking to qualify for postseason play, but also avoid the treacherous one-game series that awaits seeds Nos. 5-8

The Nos. 9-11 teams in the current standings – Las Vegas, Chicago and New York – all still harbor hope that they can break into the postseason picture with a strong push in the final stretch.

So the question on the table is: in order to make the playoffs in this crazy, compelling WNBA season, a team is going to have to do what?

Check out the responses from players and coaches at All-Star Weekend to that question:

Dan Hughes, head coach, Seattle Storm (Current playoff seed: 1, Overall record: 19-7):

“You are going to have to have a resiliency about you, because you are going to get beat up and win or lose, you can’t afford to have a hangover. This stretch is going to be tough for everyone.”

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx (Current playoff seed: 3, Overall record: 15-10):

“Find a way to win. You have to be so focused, so locked in, and all the little things make a big difference when it comes to getting a win or not getting a win every night. Some nights you’ll have two, three, four games, and after those two, three, four games it’s radically changed with the standings. Teams have to be able to focus in and execute down the stretch. Again, the margin from victory to defeat is so, so narrow. It’s great for the game. It’s just very stressful for anyone who’s invested in us as people because these games, they’re devastating because we’re all picking up our intensity, and so each game feels like a playoff game. I’m sure as the season winds down, it will be an absolute playoff atmosphere. We’ll see what happens. Just making sure that we control what we can control here on the Lynx and continue to try to play our way.”

Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm (Current playoff seed: 1, Overall record: 19-7):

“For us, we want to maintain our momentum and keep building on what we’ve done all season so far. It’s tough. Everyone here (at All-Star Weekend) came in from a long road trip or is about to go on a long road trip. Body-wise, that’s a tough thing. But it’s the same for everybody and it’s our job to finish as best we can. It’s also going to come down to who is able to rest more.”

Tina Charles, New York Liberty (Current playoff seed: 11, Overall record: 7-18):

“Play as hard as we can and just see how things go. You never know. We just need to play as hard as we can and see if we can put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith, Dallas Wings (Current playoff seed: 6, Overall record: 14-11):

“This season has been insane with how many games we’ve packed in. It’s been exhausting. You have to find a way to win, win on the road. It’s been a tiring season, hence the standings, but you have to find a way to gut it out. Who wants it more? Who wants to be in the position to have home-court advantage, to get a first-round bye to get a little more rest? That’s what it’s going to come down to. If you are in it, you will have earned it.”

Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks (Current playoff seed: 4, Overall record: 15-11):

“It’s all about consistency, even if it’s only for the short term. The schedule is crazy for everybody. Everybody is tired. That team that can play consistently is going to finish well.”

Sandy Brondello, head coach, Phoenix Mercury (Current playoff seed: 5, Overall record: 15-11):

“There’s a sense of urgency now. We’ve had runs all year. Win two, lose two, then we won eight in a row, and we haven’t won a lot since then. We are missing Sancho, but she isn’t going to be back, and so we have to move on. Everyone has had to deal with adversity. We can’t underestimate anyone. We’ve got to be tough, physically ready, and handle whatever gets thrown at us.”

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury (Current playoff seed: 5, Overall record: 15-11):

“Win, outscore the other team, it’s really that simple, honestly. We are going to have to play defense. It’s really tight. People who are able to come back from the break and win out are going to have a great chance of making the playoff. It’s going to be fun.”

Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm (Current playoff seed: 1, Overall record: 19-7):

“We have eight games left and they are all super important. We need to capitalize on the games at home, because we only have a few, but then also find a way to win on the road because we are going to have to be able to do that too.”

Sue Bird, Seattle Storm (Current playoff seed: 1, Overall record: 19-7):

“You have to treat every game like it’s a playoff game. For us, that means not relaxing, not being complacent. Yes, we had a good first part of the season, but that doesn’t mean anything. You have to peak in the playoffs. I know that’s the message that I’m going to be sending in our locker room. Just don’t relax because it’s going to be crazy competitive.”

Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx (Current playoff seed: 3, Overall record: 15-10):

“It’s about doing the little things to help your team get over the hump. I don’t know what that means for every team, but I know what it means for us – rebounds, assists, deflections, the things we do best. Whatever it takes, that’s what it’s going to take. The standings are pretty tight. It’s going to get down to the nitty gritty. But that will make it interesting. Every team in this league is good. Bring your ‘A’ game every night.”

Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.