WNBA Power Rankings: Mercury use eight-game winning streak to surge to the top

Out in Las Vegas on Sunday night, the Phoenix Mercury dispatched the young Aces by a score of 92-80 to secure their eighth straight victory. The win was emblematic of what they've done all season, as their defense was solid enough, and their big three led them to victory. Diana Taurasi (28 points), Brittney Griner (24) and DeWanna Bonner (13) combined for 70 percent of their points on the night; for the season, those three have combined for just over 67 of their total points.  

Now 10-3 thanks to the longest winning streak in the WNBA this season, they're the first team to 10 wins, and have vaulted into second place in the standings, just a half-game behind the Los Angeles Sparks. There's still a long way to go, obviously, but every regular season win is vital, and the Mercury would rather try to hold on to a top-two seed than chase one. Remember, finishing first or second allows you to avoid the single-elimination rounds and advance straight to the semi-final series in the playoffs.

The Mercury have advanced to the semifinal series (previously the conference finals) in eight of the past nine seasons. But they haven't won a single game in that round since 2014, when they went on to win the title. This season, though, looks different. And if it is, having their big three all healthy will be the main reason why. In 2015, Taurasi sat out to rest. In 2016, they were all healthy but outmatched by the Lynx and in 2017 Bonner was out on maternity leave.

Now, not only are all three healthy, but unlike in 2016, Griner has developed the offensive game to match her defensive prowess. And because Griner is now a 20-point per game scorer, they have three elite offensive players, and at least one of them on the floor at pretty much all times. Throw in a few solid veterans in Briann January and Sancho Lyttle, and the Mercury have all the makings of a championship team.

1: Phoenix Mercury (10-3) -- Up 2

How about the Mercury? After a three-game losing streak to fall to 2-3 on the season they've now rattled off eight in a row to get to a league-best 10 wins. The Big 3 of Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner are playing at a high level.

2: Los Angeles Sparks (8-2) -- Up 2

It took a few weeks, but the Sparks are finally right where everyone expected this season: First place. Their lead may only be a half-game over the red-hot Mercury, but still. This is where they belong. They're stifling teams on defense and enjoying the most efficient season of Candace Parker's career.

3: Seattle Storm (8-3) -- Down 1

Natasha Howard's breakout season has been one of the best stories of the WNBA season. She's putting up career-high numbers in every single major stat category, and most recently dropped a career-high 25 points to help her squad defeat the Sun.

4: Connecticut Sun (7-4) -- Down 3

Currently on a three-game losing streak, the Sun are facing their first adversity of the season, and it will be interesting to see how the young team responds. First though, they'll need to get healthy. The absence of do-it-all-forward Alyssa Thomas has been supremely felt in the past few games.

5: Dallas Wings (5-4) -- No movement

Is Skylar Diggins-Smith the MVP if the season ended today? She's averaging 21.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, all of which are career-high marks. Oh, and she's leading the league in scoring and checks in at third in assists.

6: Washington Mystics (6-5) -- No movement

The Mystics had two big tests this week, and they did … OK. They blew a 30-point lead to the Sun on the road before coming back to win, then saw a big comeback attempt of their own fall short against the Sparks. They're another middle of the pack team still figuring things out.

7: Atlanta Dream (6-5) -- No movement

The Dream's up and down season continues. Last week they won all three of their games, including wins over the Sun and Storm. This week they got waxed by the previously winless Fever by 32 points. Hopefully Tiffany Hayes and Brittany Sykes -- each of whom are currently in walking boots -- can return to action soon.

8: Minnesota Lynx (4-6) -- No movement

The Lynx were strangely in a stretch of only one game in nine days. They beat the Liberty without much trouble, but that was hardly enough to see if they've started to turn things around in any meaningful way.

9: Las Vegas Aces (3-9) -- Up 2

A'ja Wilson just continues to impress in her rookie season. She became just the second rookie to ever record a 35-point, 10-rebound game this week when she put up 35 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in the Aces' win over the Fever.

10: New York Liberty (3-6) -- Down 1

The Liberty are still searching for consistency. Not even Tina Charles has been her usual steady self, and no one else on the roster is stepping up. Perhaps more concerning, though, is they're no longer the defensive powerhouse they've been for the past four seasons or so.

11: Chicago Sky (3-7) -- Down 1

Another rough week for the young Sky. Their defensive rating has sunk to a league-worst 107.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, as they continue to let opponents do whatever they want on the offensive end. Until they fix their problems on that end of the floor, their losing ways will continue.

12: Indiana Fever (1-10) -- No movement

It was great to see the Fever finally get a win, and they did it in style, crushing the Dream by 32 on Saturday evening. They're still at the bottom of the standings, and likely headed for another trip to the lottery, but that still had to be an awesome feeling for that squad. You never want to see a team go winless for that long. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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