Between the high level of play, fierce postseason chase and countless historic achievements, the 2018 WNBA season has been perhaps the greatest season in league history. But it hasn't come without some drama. This week was no exception, as the Las Vegas Aces' brutal travel debacle once again showcased the disparity in accommodations between the WNBA and NBA.
After a game at home in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, the team tried to make their way across the country to Washington D.C. to take on the Mystics on Friday night. But multiple delays and mechanical issues with their plane resulted in the Aces spending the night in an airport, traveling for over 24 hours and not arriving to the nation's capital until a few hours before game time.
Then, the Aces did something no WNBA team has ever done before. They refused to play. Noting their regret to the fans, and acknowledging it was a tough decision, the Aces decided as a team that playing after such a travel nightmare would be putting themselves at too great a risk for injury.
The league still hasn't made a determination on what will happen with the game they were supposed to play against the Mystics. With only a few weeks left in the regular season, and considering the Aces were technically in D.C. the night of the game, it may be ruled a forfeit in favor of the Mystics.
Such a ruling would greatly hurt the Aces' playoff chances, but it seems they were willing to take that risk -- not only to protect themselves, but to make a statement. It's obviously too soon to know if the Aces' decision not to play will force the league into making changes regarding travel, but at the very least it's brought the issue to the forefront.
And for that, as well as their decision to put their safety ahead of all other concerns, regardless of the consequences, they should be commended.
WNBA Power Rankings
Seattle Storm (21-7) -- No movement
The Storm just keep reeling off wins. After two more this week -- double-digit victories over the Mercury and Lynx -- Breanna Stewart and Co. became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth. With a four-game lead on the third-place Sparks, they should soon be the first team to secure a top-two seed as well.
2. Atlanta Dream (18-10) -- No movement
The Dream went into the All-Star break as the hottest team in the league, but promptly had their eight-game winning streak snapped in their first game back. But no worries, this team proved the streak was no fluke by bouncing right back and winning their next two games, including a 20-point drubbing of the Lynx.
3. Los Angeles Sparks (17-11) -- Up 1
It turns out that having your second-best player and former league MVP (Nneka Ogwumike), as well as the best perimeter defender in the league (Alana Beard) back in the lineup is helpful. The duo returned for the first time since the middle of July, and made an immediate impact as the Sparks picked up impressive wins over the Lynx and Mercury.
4. Washington Mystics (16-11) -- Up 3
Everyone on the Mystics owes Kristi Toliver dinner after she single-handedly rescued them against the Wings. Her personal 8-0 run over the final two minutes, including a last-second jumper gave the Mystics a thrilling comeback victory. It also pushed them up to fourth place in the crowded standings -- which for the moment has them earning a first-round bye.
5. Connecticut Sun (16-12) -- Up 3
It seems safe to say the Sun are back. After Jasmine Thomas' career-high 30-point game helped them crush the Aces, they've now won four games in a row -- all by at least 15 points. It's no surprise that their recent turnaround has coincided with Alyssa Thomas' return. They're now 6-3 since Thomas returned from a shoulder injury that cost her a month, and 13-5 with her in the lineup over the course of the season.
6. Phoenix Mercury (16-13) -- Down 1
The Mercury's struggles since Sancho Lyttle went down with a season-ending knee injury continued this week. After a 1-2 week, which included losses to the Storm and Sparks, they're now just 3-8 without Lyttle. And only one of those wins -- an early July triumph over the then imploding Sun -- is against a playoff team.
7. Minnesota Lynx (15-13) -- Down 4
Yes, the Lynx had a wicked hard schedule this week, there is no denying that. In the span of just four days they had to play the three best teams in the league -- Storm, Dream and Sparks -- with two of those matchups coming on the road. But that they were swept aside with relative ease in all three is not an encouraging sign as they head into the final few weeks of the season.
8. Dallas Wings (14-14) -- Down 2
Well, the Wings have finally found some consistency. Unfortunately, it's the wrong kind. After a heartbreaking loss to the Mystics on Sunday afternoon -- they blew a six-point lead in the final two minutes -- the Wings have now lost five games in a row. Their longest losing streak of the season has sent them tumbling down into eighth place in the standings.
9. Las Vegas Aces (12-15) -- No movement
The Aces are still hanging around in the playoff race, but they're running out of time to make a move. Currently 1.5 games out of eighth place, their deficit could soon become two games depending on whether or not the league rules their cancelled game against the Mystics from earlier this week a forfeit. In any case, they're going to have to figure out how to tighten up their defense down the stretch if they want to sneak into the playoffs.
10. Chicago Sky (10-18) -- No movement
The Sky will likely soon be the third team eliminated from playoff contention, but at least there's six more games left to watch Courtney Vandersloot work her magic. Currently leading the league at 8.4 assists per game -- which would be a record -- Vandersloot also needs just 35 assists to set the single season record for total assists.
11. Indiana Fever (5-23) -- Up 1
Everyone expected the Fever to be at the bottom of the standings this season, but their abysmal record all season has probably always been a bit unfair. They've started to show that recently, as they're now on their first winning streak of the season, and have won three of their last five games.
12. New York Liberty (7-20) -- Down 1
They managed only two points in the fourth quarter of their recent loss to the last-place Fever. Also, they've officially been eliminated from playoff contention.