The end of the regular season for the WNBA's landmark 25th season is fast approaching with the playoffs just three weeks away. The margins are slim with the result of every game making a huge impact on the standings.
The Connecticut Sun are at the top of the league's standings at the moment, however, the Las Vegas Aces, who only trail them by a game (though they lost the season-series tiebreaker), are not allowing them to get complacent. The Seattle Storm have lost ground and are seeing the Minnesota Lynx and the Phoenix Mercury get closer and closer, although all of these franchises have virtually sealed their postseason berth.
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The security of a sealed playoff spot isn't the case for teams like the Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings, New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics, who are all struggling to enter the postseason. Having said that, the Sky do hold a sizeable advantage over the other teams with their 14-12 record.
Without further ado, here's a quick look at the fifth edition of the 2021 WNBA Power Rankings, which we carry out every two weeks.
12. Atlanta Dream (6-19)
The last place on the rankings belongs to the Dream, who were competitive until June with a 6-9 record. In their most recent game against the Las Vegas Aces, they were set for their first win since June 29, as they led 62-61 going into the fourth quarter. However, the Aces used a 17-9 fourth quarter to win the game and hand the Dream their 10th consecutive loss.
Like Indiana, they, too, are not officially eliminated into the playoffs but it's only a matter of time. With their third consecutive season with a win percentage below 35 percent, surely they are already thinking of the 2022 season.
In the next two weeks, Atlanta will play twice against Dallas and once against Phoenix and Washington.
11. Indiana Fever (5-19)
Similar to the Dream, the Fever aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, largely in part to the recent 83-81 win over the Dallas Wings where the veteran duo of vets Emma Cannon and Danielle Robinson played a key role.
The Fever now have a level of competitiveness that they did not present at the beginning of the season and, although their 2021 postseason hopes are all but over, they can ruin the plans for rival teams on any given night.
When they fell to the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday (ET), they lost Robinson to a knee injury. In the next 14 days, Indiana will face Phoenix and Minnesota twice as well as Los Angeles.
10. New York Liberty (11-16)
Sabrina Ionescu continues to make an impact. Last Friday, she came close to recording her second triple-double of the season with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against Phoenix.
With just one win in the last eight games, the positive start to Liberty's season - where they were 5-1 at the end of May - is gone.
Although, they are still in a position to make the playoffs, it's a complicated schedule ahead. Of the Liberty's five remaining games, three are against the top three teams in the league in Seattle, Minnesota and Connecticut whereas, the other two are against Washington and Dallas - teams they are competing with the for the final playoff spots.
9. Los Angeles Sparks (10-16)
With the return of the Ogwumike sisters, it looked like things were finally turned around for the Sparks but then, an Eastern Conference road trip complicated matters. They won in New York but couldn't achieve the same results in Washington and Connecticut (twice). Being one victory away from equaling New York for the eighth and final playoff seed, the margin of errors is over for the Los Angeles franchise as it needs at least three wins from its remaining six games.
In the next 14 days, Los Angeles will face Indiana, Minnesota, Connecticut and Seattle.
8. Washington Mystics (10-15)
Elena Delle Donne finally returned to the court and even though it's in limited minutes - she's averaged 17 minutes per game in her first three appearances - she has shown that her offensive prowess is intact. The problem for Washington is that it still could not join her with Tina Charles (left gluteal strain) and right now, each defeat is proving costly.
At least the Mystics 76-75 win against the Dallas Wings has made the scene lesser complicated for them. Over the next two weeks, they face Connecticut, Minnesota, Atlanta, Seattle and Chicago.
7. Dallas Wings (11-15)
Dallas can't seem to brush off the inconsistency of its 2021 season, but for now, its play could still be enough to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2018. With five of their six remaining games at home, it remains to be seen if the young squad can take care of business and seal their postseason berth.
Arike Ogunbowale has been dependable and Isabelle Harrison makes up for the nights that Marina Mabrey doesn't show up - it's the absences of Satou Sabally (Achilles tendon pain) and Allisha Gray (concussion protocol) that are of greatest concern for the team.
Atlanta (twice), Connecticut and New York are their opponents over the next two weeks.
6. Chicago Sky (14-12)
If Chicago still does not have a record to ensure its place in the Playoffs, it is because of the series of games (seven-game losing streak in late May and early June) it lost at the beginning of the season without Candace Parker. With CP3 in the line-up, the team has won 13 of the 17 games and in their 107-75 win over Seattle, we saw perhaps the best performance of Parker's time in Chicago as she finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Courtney Vandersloot is also on a great streak, leading the league with 9.2 assists per game while her backcourt mate Natasha Cloud averages 6.4. Over the next fortnight, the Sky face Las Vegas (twice), Phoenix and Washington.
5. Minnesota Lynx (15-9)
The Lynx's eight-game winning streak ended in Connecticut when they lost twice to the Sun. However, the Lynx recovered well from that by winning in Chicago and beating Seattle in the following days.
The two losses to the Sun practically ran Minnesota out of the fight for the top spot in the WNBA but still, with only two losses in the last 12 games and the great season from their Sylvia Fowles-Napheesa Collier duo, their team in the North must be respected in the postseason.
In the next 14 days, Minnesota will face New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Las Vegas and Indiana (twice).
4. Seattle Storm (18-10)
Is it time to sound the alarms in Seattle? The defending champions have taken one blow after another, losing five of their seven games since being crowned the first-ever Commissioner's Cup winners. Their most recent game, a 107-75 defeat to the Sky, is their third defeat to the Chicago franchise in a span of 15 days.
They failed to stop Candace Parker and Kahleah Cooper while their offensive execution has declined considerably in the last couple of weeks. Has the loaded schedule since the break (seven games in 14 days plus a White House visit), coming off a gold-medal trip to the Olympics been too much for the trio of Stewart, Bird and Loyd?
Now, they have a few days to recover and need at least two more wins to secure a place in the top 4. In the next 14 days, Seattle will face New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
3. Phoenix Mercury (15-10)
At the moment, the Mercury are the team to watch in the West. An unbeaten run since the break has seen them go from 9-10, a record that did not ensure their place in the Playoffs, to a 15-10 record which means that only a catastrophe could deny them a playoff berth.
Brittney Griner continues playing at an MVP level with performances such as 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists in Wednesday's win over New York Liberty. However, two days later, the Mercury beat the Liberty again without her as Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith took over.
The Big 3 of Arizona is working perfectly and they are a threat to anyone. In the next 14 days, Phoenix will play against Chicago, Connecticut, Atlanta and twice against Indiana.
2. Las Vegas Aces (19-7)
The loss against Connecticut 76-62 was tough, with the game falling out of hand in the fourth quarter as A'ja Wilson recorded her worst performance of the entire season (four points, 1-15 from the field). However, the team can trust that such a performance from the reigning league MVP is rare as it's been her performances that have kept them in the fight for the top seed.
The highest-scoring team in the WNBA continues to knock it down efficiently from long-range (36.8 percent on the season). In the next 14 days, Las Vegas will face Chicago twice and Minnesota once.
1. Connecticut Sun (20-6)
Despite suffering a big defeat in the Commissioner's Cup game, the Sun are in the best phase of their season. Having won eight games in a row, they are in a strong position to lock up the top seed in the league, which could be key for a team that is undefeated at home.
On the back of their stellar defence, they have held teams like Dallas, Minnesota, Las Vegas and Los Angeles below 63 points in the past fortnight, and it helps them survive any rare off-nights from Jonquel Jones or DeWanna Bonner.
In the next 14 days, Connecticut will face Washington, Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix, all of which are road games.
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