WNBA Power Rankings: Aces take over top spot after fifth straight win; Sylvia Fowles makes history
The Aces have won five in a row to take control of first place in the standings at 11-5
Not even a minute into the third quarter of the Minnesota Lynx's victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday evening, Sylvia Fowles pulled down her 10th rebound of the game and gave the ball to Danielle Robinson to take the action the other way. A few seconds later, she trailed down the floor, took a kick-out from Napheesa Collier at the elbow and drained the mid-range jumper to give her 10 points on the night.
Neither play was all that spectacular, but together they gave her yet another double-double, her fourth straight, ninth of the season and 158th of her career, moving her past Lisa Leslie for the most double-doubles in WNBA history.
Fowles finished the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds on 7-of-12 from the field in yet another steady performance to lead this Lynx team to their fourth win in five games.
So much has been made this season of the absences the Lynx are facing; their Core Four of Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson haven't played a minute this season. Fowles is still there, though, providing steady leadership and production for a team with all sorts of new faces.
"She's just incredible. She's relentless. The game has changed in terms of how she's being officiated this year, how the paint is being officiated… but she just still finds a way," head coach Cheryl Reeve said after the game. "I'm just really proud of her and I'm just really thankful that I have a chance to be a part of so many double-doubles out of that big number."
It's not her style to make the spectacular, highlight reel plays, nor is it her nature to make you notice her work on the court, but Fowles deserves recognition this season. Not just for her double-double record, but for her continued strong play which has been key in keeping this Lynx team near the top of the standings despite all the adversity they've faced.
1. Las Vegas Aces (11-5) -- last week No. 2
The Aces didn't play their best basketball this week, but they still picked up two more wins, which is ultra important in the race for a top-two seed. Their winning streak has now reached five games, and they improved their record to 9-2 in their last 11 outings.
2. Connecticut Sun (11-6) -- last week No. 3
This was an important week for the Sun. Their season seemed to be unraveling a bit after five straight losses, but they bounced back with two big double-digit wins and are just half a game out of first place. Plus, Jonquel Jones seems back on track after a rough stretch on the offensive end.
3. Washington Mystics (9-6) -- last week No. 1
It turns out that Elena Delle Donne is quite important to the Mystics' success. Washington has now lost three games in a row, all of them coming without Delle Donne, who is sidelined with a broken nose. For the season, the Mystics are 9-2 with EDD in the lineup and 0-4 without her.
4. Minnesota Lynx (10-7) -- last week No. 4
More of the same this week from the Lynx, who keep steadily cruising along. After two more wins this week, they've now won six out of their last eight games thanks in large part to their impressive defense, which is second in the league behind only the Las Vegas Aces.
5. Los Angeles Sparks (9-7) -- last week No. 5
A bizarre loss to the Wings aside, the Sparks picked up two more wins this week and have now won five of their last six games. They still don't inspire much trust, but what team does this season? One interesting subplot to follow is Riquna Williams' continued importance. After her 23-point night in their win over the Dream on Sunday, the Sparks are now 6-1 when she scores in double figures and 3-6 when she doesn't.
6. Chicago Sky (9-8) -- last week No. 6
All season long we've been waiting for the Sky to put things together on the offensive end, and they did so in a big way to close this week with two electric performances to beat the Liberty and Wings. In fact, they were so good in those two games that they jumped to third in the league in offense. Did it help that those are two of the worst defensive teams in the league? Sure, but it was a good sign nonetheless.
7. Seattle Storm (10-8) -- last week No. 7
The Storm are still without Jewell Loyd, who is sidelined due to an ankle injury, but returned to winning ways this week with victories over the Wings and Liberty to stop a three-game losing streak. Seattle has more pressing issues off the court, however, with All-Star forward Natasha Howard the subject of disturbing domestic violence allegations.
8. Phoenix Mercury (7-8) -- last week No. 8
The Mercury's week started off in terrific fashion with a dominant win over the Mystics, followed by the news that Diana Taurasi would make her season debut on Friday night against the Sun. They got blown out in that game, though, saw Sancho Lyttle go down with a knee injury and then once again lost by double digits on Sunday to the Lynx.
9. Atlanta Dream (5-11) -- last week No. 12
The Dream went 2-1 this week with nice victories over the Sun and Lynx to put together their first winning week of the season. While their offense is still pitiful, they're starting to figure things out on the defensive end. Their defensive rating in July is 91.1, good for fourth-best in the league during this month, and down from 103.7 in June.
10. New York Liberty (7-10) -- last week No. 9
The Liberty had a big roster shakeup this week after the conclusion of EuroBasket, which included the debut of French guard Marine Johannes. She was impressive in her first two games, but as a whole, the lineup changes did not seem to help a Liberty team that has struggled with consistency this season.
11. Indiana Fever (6-12) -- last week No. 10
The Fever faced a brutal schedule this week, and though they were competitive for the most part, they suffered three more losses to fall to 6-12, and have now lost nine out of 11 games. Their offense, which was surprisingly strong to start the season, has started to falter, and they don't have the defense to compensate.
12. Dallas Wings (5-11) -- last week No. 11
The Wings picked up a surprise win over the Sparks in an afternoon game to start the week, but then promptly lost to the Storm and Sky. They've now lost four of their last five games, all by double figures. As expected, this team just isn't very good. The one bright side is that Arike Ogunbowale keeps looking more and more comfortable. She's averaging 18.8 points and shooting 38 percent from 3 in July.
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