Sports Minute: WNBA playoff picture comes into focus, teams clinch berths
By DOUG FEINBERGAP Basketball Writer
With less than two weeks left in the regular season, the WNBA playoff picture is becoming clearer.
Seattle, Las Vegas and Los Angeles have already clinched spots in the postseason with Minnesota and Chicago not far away from securing playoff berths. Both need just one more win to get in.
Phoenix is in good shape to reach the postseason with the Mercury sitting in sixth place. The Mercury, however did lose Bria Hartley for the season with an ACL tear in her right knee and are down to eight active players on the roster now.
The final two spots could potentially come down to the final few games. Connecticut, Dallas and Indiana are within two games of each other in the standings. The Sun play the Fever on Saturday and a victory would secure a season sweep of the series and give them the tiebreaker between the teams. Connecticut already owns the tiebreaker over Dallas.
The WNBA kept its same playoff format with the top two teams receiving byes to the semifinals. The first two rounds of the playoffs are single elimination.
Washington, Atlanta and New York would need a lot of help to make the postseason.
This week’s WNBA poll:
1. Las Vegas (12-3): The league did the Aces no favors rescheduling their postponed game to Sept. 13, giving Las Vegas back-to-back games against Los Angeles and Seattle to close out the regular season.
2. Seattle (13-3): The Storm hope to have Sue Bird back this week as she's been dealing with a bone bruise in her left knee.
3. Los Angeles (12-4): The Sparks saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end Monday night, falling to Minnesota. Still not many teams have been playing better than Los Angeles over the last few weeks.
4. Minnesota (11-5): Crystal Dangerfield has been one of the surprises of the rookie class. The second-round pick is averaging averaging 15.9 points and 3.1 assists and the Lynx are 10-4 when she starts.
5. Chicago (11-6): The Sky lost Azura Stevens (knee) and Diamond DeShields (personal reasons) for the season leaving the them short-handed. Both players left the WNBA bubble. The team will need to continue to rely on the strong play of Kahleah Copper, one of the most improved players in the league this season, to make a deep playoff run.
6. Phoenix (9-7): Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith stepped up and led the Mercury to two wins last week. The pair of talented guards got a boost from Kia Vaughn's strong play inside. She averaged 12 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds in the victories.
7. Connecticut (7-9): Like many other teams, the Sun have been hit hard by injuries. They only had eight healthy players for their win over the Mystics on Sunday. They will need Brionna Jones (ankle) to get back to full strength to make a run to the playoffs.
8. Dallas (5-10): The Wings got Satou Sabally into the lineup after a back injury and she had 46 points and 22 rebounds over her past two games.
9. Indiana (5-11): The Fever have dropped four straight, but have gotten solid performances from Natalia Achonwa. She's averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds during the skid.
10. Washington (4-11): The Mystics have dropped 11 of 12 since opening the season 3-0. Washington did get some good news with the return of Emma Meesseman after she missed a couple games with a shoulder injury.
11. Atlanta (3-13): Chennedy Carter returned from her ankle injury and it only took two games for her to recapture her pre-injury form. The rookie had 26 points in a loss to Los Angeles.
12. New York (2-13): Got their second win of the season behind strong play from Amanda Zahui B. She also set the franchise record with 21 defensive rebounds in a loss.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Alyssa Thomas earned player of the week honors after helping Connecticut split its two games last week. She averaged 17.5 points, 10 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Other players receiving votes included Skylar Diggins-Smith of Phoenix, A'ja Wilson of Las Vegas, Breanna Stewart of Seattle and Courtney Vandersloot of Chicago.
The WNBA players decided to stand in solidarity with their NBA counterpart s and not play games last Wednesday and Thursday following the shooting of Jacob Blake on Aug. 23. That forced the WNBA to reschedule the six games that were missed. Two of them were made up on Monday. Connecticut meets Phoenix on Monday Sept. 7. The final three games will be made up on Sept. 13 — a day after the regular season was supposed to end with Dallas-New York, Las Vegas-Seattle and Washington-Atlanta that day.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Minnesota vs Chicago, Wednesday. This game could go a long way to determining who gets the fourth seed in the playoffs and the bye out of the first round. Minnesota won the first meeting between the teams and holds a half-game lead in the standings.
Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg
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