WNBA Power Rankings: Mystics finally lose, but still hold top spot; Sky surging at the right time
The Sky have won three games in a row, and are right in the mix for a first-round bye
With so many of the league's top players out of action for various reasons, this has been a bit of a strange WNBA season. Still, as always, a few teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. For much of the season it's been the Mystics, Sun and Aces, with the Sparks coming on strong as of late. But there's a new team making a case that they, too, belong in the top tier: the Chicago Sky.
After a perfect 3-0 week, which included an impressive victory over the first-place Mystics, the Sky have improved their record to 7-2 in August, and 11-3 in their last 14 games. In that stretch, their only losses have come to the Sparks, Aces and Sun, and they boast a plust-5.1 net rating, third-best in the league.
While their defense is still just so-so, the high-powered offense we all expected has finally arrived and they play at such a ridiculous pace that it's hard for many teams to keep up. On her way to setting even more assist records, Courtney Vandersloot is playing at such a high level that she's receiving "M-V-P!" chants in Wintrust Arena, Allie Quigley is on the cusp of a 50-40-90 season and they quietly have some solid depth. That's been proven over the last few weeks, with Astou Ndour stepping into the starting lineup for the injured Jantel Lavender and averaging a near-double-double.
Now at 18-11 on the season, and in fifth place in the standings, the Sky have clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2016, and for the first time in franchise history without Elena Delle Donne on the roster. More than that, they aren't out of the race for a top-two seed, sitting just two games back of the Sun. While that's still a bit of a long shot with just five games left to play, they're only half a game back of third place, and could very well earn a first-round bye. Regardless, this team is looking quite dangerous, and no one is going to want to play them in the postseason, which begins in just over two weeks on Sept. 11.
1. Washington Mystics (21-8) -- last week No. 1
The Mystics dropped a game on the road against the Sky to start the week, ending their six-game winning streak. But they bounced right back, destroying the Liberty on Sunday to pick up their 12th win by at least 20 points this season. At 21-8, they're still in first place with just five games to play, but it's not all good news in D.C., as Kristi Toliver's recovery is taking longer than expected.
2. Connecticut Sun (20-9) -- last week No. 3
Solid week for the Sun. They continued their dominance at home, moving to 14-1 in Mohegan Sun Arena with a nice win over the Aces early in the week, but couldn't keep up with the Sparks on the road on Sunday. If anything, this week was further proof of how big it would be if the Sun are able to chase the Mystics down for the No. 1 seed and get home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
3. Chicago Sky (18-11) -- last week No. 4
They Sky are absolutely crushing it right now, rattling off three straight wins this week, including a victory over the first-place Mystics and a road win against the Mercury in Diana Taurasi's return. Their offense is finally clicking into gear, they've beaten the Mystics, Sparks and Aces in the past three weeks and are all of a sudden just two games back of a top-two seed.
4. Los Angeles Sparks (18-10) -- last week No. 5
Another week, another swing in form for the Sparks. After two losses last week, they ripped off three straight victories this week, all of them by double digits. Now 18-10, they're back into third place, just 1 1/2 games out of a top-two seed. They finally have their entire roster healthy, and all of the talent is paying dividends, as they've been fantastic on both sides of the ball lately.
5. Las Vegas Aces (19-11) -- last week No. 2
The Aces' week ended with a loss to the Sun after blowing a double-digit lead in the second half and a 21-point blowout defeat to the Lynx. In the grand scheme of things, two losses in a row isn't that big of a deal, but now is not the time to start struggling. Not when the Aces are right in the middle of a chaotic playoff race where the top five teams are separated by just three games. After their two losses, they're down to fourth.
6. Minnesota Lynx (15-15) -- last week No. 9
The Lynx made a big statement on Sunday evening with their blowout win over the Aces. It was their second win in a row, and got them back to .500 at 15-15. Their chances at a first-round bye have pretty much faded away, but they're still in the mix for home-court advantage in the first round. Napheesa Collier has been on a tear since the All-Star break, and is cementing her case for Rookie of the Year.
7. Seattle Storm (15-14) -- last week No. 6
The Storm only had one game this week, and it did not go well at all, as they lost at home to the Fever. They've now dropped three of their last four to fall to 15-14 on the season, and are now in a race just to secure home court in the first round. Still, even with their 0-1 week, they managed to clinch a playoff spot by default, and getting back to the postseason with all the injuries they've dealt with was by no means a certainty.
8. Phoenix Mercury (13-15) -- last week No. 7
The good news for the Mercury is that Diana Taurasi has finally returned to the lineup. The bad news is that she looks to have plenty of rust to shake off -- she shot 2-of-13 in her return on Sunday -- they lost two more games this week to drop to 3-7 in their last 10 outings and it's a near certainty they'll miss out on any playoff byes.
9. Indiana Fever (10-19) -- last week No. 10
The Fever snapped their three-game losing streak with a victory over the Storm on Sunday, but wins and losses don't really matter all that much for them at this point. What is important, though, is the continued development of rookie center Teaira McCowan. The No. 3 overall pick put up 22 points and 19 rebounds in the win over the Storm, and averaged 17.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in three games this week.
10. Dallas Wings (9-20) -- last week No. 8
Things have gone south again for the Wings, who have lost three in a row now after their three-game winning streak. But much like the Fever, their main focus now is the development of their young players. Rookie guard Arike Ogunbowale has scored 20-plus points in six straight games, while third-year wing Allisha Gray has impressed since the All-Star break.
11. New York Liberty (9-20) -- last week No. 11
The Liberty finally ended their eight-game winning streak with a win over the Fever to start the week, but quickly returned to their losing ways, dropping games to the Dream and Mystics. That's probably for the best, though, as it will get them a better chance at the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft.
12. Atlanta Dream (7-22) -- last week No. 12
The nightmare is over; the Dream have won a game. In fact, they won two this week, taking down the Liberty and Wings to snap their 12-game skid that dated back to July 14. Unfortunately for them, it's far too little, too late as they were the first team officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Nneka Ogwumike was doing a television interview when the incident took place
The semifinal series will get underway on Tuesday evening
The Mystics and Aces will get their semifinal series underway on Tuesday night in D.C.
The WNBA postseason continues on Tuesday with two Game 1s in the semifinal round
The postseason action continues on Tuesday with Game 1 of each semifinal series
Hamby launched up a prayer from just inside halfcourt even though there was plenty of time...