Six groups, three playoff berths: Handicapping the WNBA playoff race

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With the 2022 WNBA common season two-thirds full, 5 groups have established themselves as postseason shoe-ins and, in some circumstances, clear championship contenders. However the jostling between the six others vying for the ultimate three playoff spots — the Atlanta Dream, Los Angeles Sparks, Dallas Wings, Phoenix Mercury, New York Liberty and Minnesota Lynx — is the place the league’s highest-stakes competitors lies over the subsequent 4 weeks.

That turned extra clear Tuesday evening, when Minnesota’s double-overtime win over the Mercury and losses by the Sparks, Dream, Liberty and Wings allowed the Lynx to tug inside 1.5 video games of a playoff spot. Now, these six groups are all inside 1.5 video games of each other within the WNBA standings with between 11 and 13 contests remaining to safe a postseason berth.

The common season wraps up Aug. 14, with the primary spherical of the playoffs — below a new format this season — opening Aug. 17 with 4 best-of-three sequence to find out the semifinalists.

Which groups are most definitely to achieve the WNBA playoffs?

By Tuesday’s video games, the Wings (70.0%), Mercury (55.0%) and Sparks (54.7%) have been projected to make the postseason, in line with ESPN’s BPI.

The Dream (54.2%) weren’t too far behind Los Angeles, and the Lynx (48.3%) weren’t too far off, both. However the Liberty had by far the worst prospects of any staff at the moment in competition at 17.8%.

What’s every staff’s path to the postseason — and does the attention check mirror the BPI?

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Kristi Toliver drains the three for the Sparks

The Liberty and Lynx stay in Tenth and eleventh place, respectively, however have been two of the most popular groups within the league over the previous few weeks, whereas the Dream and Wings cooled off following sturdy begins. Los Angeles and Phoenix by no means totally appeared to ascertain themselves as surefire playoff groups and have handled loads of sudden disruption, with the Sparks firing coach Derek Fisher midseason and 2012 MVP Tina Charles taking a buyout to signal with the Storm final month.

Behind its current bout of success, Minnesota now has one of the best season-long web ranking of the mid-tier groups (minus-0.7, sixth within the league), adopted by Dallas (minus-1.0), Atlanta (minus-2.7), Phoenix (minus-3.1), New York (minus-4.1) and Los Angeles (minus-6.5).

Will Dallas and the Liberty be capable to construct upon final season’s postseason appearances? Will the Dream be capable to exceed expectations and make their first postseason look since 2018? Will future Corridor of Famer Sylvia Fowles prolong her ultimate season with a playoff run? Will the Mercury defy the percentages after dropping Charles and Brittney Griner, the Sparks after switching coaches midseason, to play in late August?

We’ll discover all that out and extra within the weeks to come back. Here is a team-by-team have a look at what the subsequent month would possibly maintain.

Atlanta: The sixth-place Dream — who lastly acquired again Tiffany Hayes 4 video games in the past — have the fewest video games remaining in opposition to prime groups (4) and have additionally accomplished pretty nicely in opposition to the remainder of the sphere, already proudly owning the tiebreaker over Dallas. They’re fifth within the league in web ranking within the 4 video games (wherein they’ve gone 2-2) since Hayes’ return.

Los Angeles: The No. 7 Sparks have had their share of damage points and absences (most not too long ago, Nneka Ogwumike and Chennedy Carter have missed time, although Ogwumike is anticipated again Thursday from a non-COVID-19 sickness), however seven of their remaining 13 video games might be at residence.

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Sophie Cunningham drains a game-tying 3-pointer within the ultimate seconds of regulation to ship the sport to extra time.

Dallas: The No. 8 Wings have not had one of the best of luck both, with Satou Sabally enjoying solely 11 video games this season and listed as uncertain going into Thursday’s matchup in opposition to the Lynx. The Wings are the one staff with a number of matchups in opposition to the last-place Indiana Fever remaining, which may also help Dallas rise within the standings if it takes care of enterprise.

Phoenix: The ninth-place Mercury have the fewest highway video games left (three) however proceed to function with such a slim margin for error following Charles’ departure. Phoenix has been boosted by standout play from Sophie Cunningham, together with her 36-point efficiency Tuesday, however is {that a} sustainable recipe for fulfillment down the stretch?

New York Whereas the No. 10 Liberty — who’re nonetheless awaiting the returns of Betnijah Laney and Jocelyn Willoughby — kicked it into excessive gear in June, they do not have a ton of probably simple video games left, and are at the moment behind in or have already misplaced 4 sequence tiebreakers.

Minnesota: Lastly wholesome and doubtlessly capable of deliver again Napheesa Collier as nicely, the No. 11 Lynx have gained six of their previous eight, however they play extra .500 groups (six) than every other mid-tier squad and have a road-heavy ultimate few weeks. Serving to Minnesota’s case is that it owns the sequence tiebreakers over Phoenix and New York.

Matchups between any of those groups will carry even better weight these subsequent few weeks, particularly as tiebreakers are determined. New York and Atlanta have essentially the most remaining video games in opposition to the mid-tier groups (eight), whereas Los Angeles has seven.


Video games of the week

Wings at Lynx (8 p.m. ET Thursday, Twitter): Essential matchup for all of the aforementioned playoff implications. Neither of the 2 earlier video games between these groups have been significantly shut, most not too long ago with the Lynx demolishing the Wings 92-64 in late June. Will Sabally, who didn’t seem in that recreation, stay out for Dallas?

Aces at Solar (1 p.m. ET Sunday, ABC): A battle between the highest two groups from Might which have each hit some highway bumps in June and early July. The Solar stole one recreation from their pair of matchups at Mandalay Bay on Might 31 and June 2, and will use a win right here to halt their current slide within the standings, the place they now sit at fourth behind the Sky, Aces and Storm.

Dream at Mercury (6 p.m. ET Sunday, Amazon Prime): One other tiebreaker is at stake on this recreation. Charles completed with 20 factors and 9 rebounds in Phoenix’s win within the sequence on June 10. Hayes had but to return from damage. After successful their first three video games with out Charles, the Mercury have dropped three of their previous 4, their sole win coming in opposition to the Tenth-place Liberty, however they’re going to have to string collectively some wins to chase away the Liberty and Lynx.


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The Mercury and Lynx head to double extra time after Skylar Diggins-Smith scoops it residence on the buzzer.

Stat of the week

Within the Chicago’s 90-75 win over the Dream on Tuesday, 36-year-old Candace Parker turned the oldest participant in WNBA historical past to document a 30-point, 10-rebound recreation after ending with 31 factors, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and three steals for the Sky. It was her highest-scoring recreation since July 2018.

Later that evening, Phoenix and Minnesota churned out the primary WNBA recreation since 2010 to function three 30-point scorers in Cunningham (36), Aerial Powers (35) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (32). In a wild double-overtime battle that Minnesota gained 118-107, Powers and Cunningham turned simply the third pair of opposing gamers to every drop 35 factors in the identical recreation.


Fantasy girls’s basketball picks

Who to begin: The Lynx’s Aerial Powers has helped gas Minnesota’s current success and is fifth within the league in fantasy factors over the previous 5 video games. She might need struggled early within the season however is a must-start now.

Cunningham, on whom the Mercury have needed to lean much more now that Charles is gone, additionally has been on hearth, coming in at No. 6 in fantasy factors over the previous 5 video games. She’s nonetheless rostered in lower than 30% of leagues.

The Sparks’ Lexie Brown and Brittney Sykes have additionally been good from a fantasy standpoint in current video games and will get a glance as streaming choices as L.A. makes a concerted push for the playoffs.

Who to take a seat: The Lynx’s Bridget Carleton has seen her enjoying time dip as Minnesota has gotten more healthy and more healthy. Dallas’ Isabelle Harrison has additionally seen her enjoying time go down, and must be benched.

Atlanta’s AD Durr has cooled off after a robust preliminary few video games with the Dream.

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