With the All-Star celebration now in the rear view, it is time to focus on the final six weeks of the regular season. While last year’s finalists – Minnesota and Los Angeles – have separated from the pack, they are followed by a group of nine teams separated by just four games.
The action gets back underway on Tuesday with all 12 teams in action and three games on national TV. The Mystics and Stars tip things off with a matinee at 12:30 ET on NBA TV, followed by the Lynx and Liberty squaring off at 8 ET on ESPN 2, and wrapping up with the defending champion Sparks hosting the Storm at 10:30 ET back on NBA TV.
1. Minnesota Lynx
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
2017 Record: 16-2; This Week: 1-0
OffRtg: 110.0 (1); DefRtg: 96.0 (1); NetRtg: 13.9 (1); TS%: 56.8 (3)
Maya Moore added another trophy to her impressive collection, as she was named All-Star MVP for the second consecutive time after leading the West to a 130-121 win. After being well represented in Seattle – with four players and the coaching staff – the Lynx open the second half of the season by hosting the New York Liberty on Tuesday (8 ET, ESPN 2). Can they pick up where they left off?
2. Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
2017 Record: 14-6; This Week: 0-1
OffRtg: 108.2 (2); DefRtg: 100.6 (4); NetRtg: 7.6 (2); TS%: 57.5 (2)
The Sparks dropped their first home game of the year just before the All-Star break, but still remain a league-best 9-1 (.900) at home this season. And that is where they tip off the second half of the season, hosting the Storm on Tuesday (10:30 ET, NBA TV) as part of a stretch that features three home games in the next 10 days. The Sparks will look to dust off that loss and get back to their winning ways in front of their home fans.
3. Connecticut Sun
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
2017 Record: 12-9; This Week: 0-1
OffRtg: 107.7 (3); DefRtg: 102.7 (7); NetRtg: 4.9 (3); TS%: 53.8 (5)
The Sun went from a team that opened the season 1-5 to entering the All-Star break tied for the top record in the East. They had three All-Stars in the starting lineup and a game-high 24 point performance from Jonquel Jones. However, the Sun did lose two of their last three heading into the break and open the second half against a red-hot Chicago Sky team that has won five of its last six games.
4. Washington Mystics
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
2017 Record: 12-9; This Week: 1-0
OffRtg: 104.5 (5); DefRtg: 101.3 (6); NetRtg: 3.2 (4); TS%: 52.7 (6)
Heading into Tuesday’s game against San Antonio (12:30 ET, NBA TV), Elena Delle Donne’s status remains unknown as she missed Washington’s last two games and the All-Star Game while nursing a sprained right ankle. The Mystics went 1-1 without Delle Donne – as well as Tayler Hill, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL – last week. Getting her back soon is imperative as the Mystics look to maintain a top-four playoff position.
5. New York Liberty
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
2017 Record: 10-9; This Week: 1-0
OffRtg: 99.8 (8); DefRtg: 99.3 (2); NetRtg: 0.5 (6); TS%: 51.1 (10)
New York closed out the first half with wins over Washington and Connecticut – the top two teams in the East at 12-9 each – by a combined 46 points. Both of those games were at home, which is a place the Liberty will not be for some time as they embark on a five-game road trip, beginning Tuesday in Minnesota against the 16-2 Lynx (8 ET, ESPN 2). Can the Liberty carry that momentum from those last two wins into the second half of the season?
6. Phoenix Mercury
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
2017 Record: 11-9; This Week: 0-1
OffRtg: 102.9 (7); DefRtg: 101.2 (5); NetRtg: 1.7 (5); TS%: 54.2 (4)
Phoenix lost three straight games entering the All-Star break as it began a stretch without WNBA leading scorer Brittney Griner, who will miss at least three more weeks with knee and ankle injuries. The Mercury also open the second half of the season by playing five of their first six games on the road, where they have actually played better than at home (5-3 on the road, 6-6 at home). While Griner is sidelined, the Mercury still have eight-time All-Star Diana Taurasi to lean on to keep them in playoff position.
7. Chicago Sky
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
2017 Record: 8-13; This Week: 2-0
OffRtg: 98.8 (11); DefRtg: 103.7 (8); NetRtg: -4.9 (10); TS%: 52.7 (7)
On July 8, the Chicago Sky were 3-12 and winless at home as they hosted the league-leading Minnesota Lynx. While on paper that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, it has proven to be a turning point in the Sky’s season. Chicago picked up the 100-76 win and entered the All-Star break having won five of its last six games. The Sky were represented at All-Star by Stefanie Dolson and Allie Quigley, who put on a shooting clinic to capture the 3-point contest title. Can Quigley’s hot shooting and the Sky’s success to close the first half continue as they open the stretch run in Connecticut on Tuesday?
8. Seattle Storm
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
2017 Record: 9-11; This Week: 0-1
OffRtg: 104.7 (4); DefRtg: 105.1 (10); NetRtg: -0.4 (7); TS%: 58.4 (1)
The city of Seattle and the Storm were outstanding hosts for their first WNBA All-Star Game, but having played more games at home – 13 of 20 – than any other team prior to the All-Star break, the Storm will spend much of the second half away from KeyArena. The Storm must improve on their 2-5 road record if they hope to reach the playoffs for the second straight season. Now that the All-Star hosting duties are over, it’s time to get to work.
9. Dallas Wings
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
2017 Record: 10-12; This Week: 0-1
OffRtg: 103.3 (6); DefRtg: 107.4 (11); NetRtg: -4.0 (9); TS%: 51.9 (9)
The Wings entered the All-Star break having lost three of their last four games, including a 26-point loss to Minnesota last Wednesday before Skylar Diggins-Smith headed to Seattle as the team’s lone All-Star. Dallas hosts a struggling Fever squad that has lost six of its last seven, then hits the road this weekend for contests in Seattle and Los Angeles. Can the Wings get back to the level that saw them win five of six games in late June/early July?
10. Atlanta Dream
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
2017 Record: 9-11; This Week: 0-1
OffRtg: 99.0 (9); DefRtg: 99.9 (3); NetRtg: -0.9 (8); TS%: 50.3 (11)
The Dream were well represented in Seattle with a trio of All-Stars – starter Tiffany Hayes (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and reserves Layshia Clarendon (14 points, team-high 10 assists) and Elizabeth Williams (8 points). Now that the trio is back in Atlanta, it is time to open the second half with a three-game homestand against Phoenix, Minnesota and Washington – teams that enter the week with a combined 39-20 (0.661) record. The Dream need to rebound from their close to the first half of the season, which saw them lose three of four, including a defeat against the short-handed Mystics last Wednesday.
11. Indiana Fever
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
2017 Record: 8-13; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 99.0 (10); DefRtg: 107.8 (12); NetRtg: -8.8 (11); TS%: 52.0 (8)
The Fever stumbled into the All-Star break having lost six of their last seven games to fall to 8-13 on the season, including a pair of losses to a San Antonio team that had just one win entering their game on July 12. Fortunately for the Fever, they are just two games in the loss column out of the eighth and final playoff spot. But to extend their record playoff streak, the Fever will have to hit a win streak, which may prove difficult this week with matchups against New York, Connecticut and Chicago.
12. San Antonio Stars
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
2017 Record: 3-18; This Week: 1-0
OffRtg: 94.3 (12); DefRtg: 104.3 (9); NetRtg: -10.0 (12); TS%: 50.1 (12)
Have the Stars finally turned the corner? They won two of their final four games heading into the All-Star break and all signs appear to be pointing in a positive direction. Rookie Kelsey Plum is coming off her best game as a pro as she finished with a season-best 16 points and season-high tying six assists in Thursday’s win over Indiana. The Stars open the second half with a matinee matchup with Washington, which may or may not have Elena Delle Donne due to an ankle injury. The Stars also get the short-handed Mercury this Sunday in Phoenix as they look to build on the momentum of the past week.