WNBA Power Rankings: Mystics' historic offense has them looking like team to beat; surging Aces clinch playoff spot
The Mystics have won six games in a row and set the WNBA single-game 3-point record on Sunday
Late on Friday night, the Washington Mystics became the first team to clinch a playoff spot when they went on the road to defeat the Minnesota Lynx. Sitting in first place, with their ticket to the playoffs already punched, it was hard to imagine their week getting much better, but it certainly did on Sunday.
The Mystics welcomed the Indiana Fever to the nation's capital for some matinee basketball, and put together a historic shooting performance in a 39-point rout. Led by four 3-pointers each from Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers, the Mystics drained 18 3s to set a new WNBA single-game record. And with their 107-68 victory, they became the first team to reach 20 wins this season, moving to 20-7 and maintaining their hold on first place.
Heading into the season, everyone expected the Mystics' offense to be one of the best in the league. With Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver leading the way, a deep supporting cast around them and a willingness to let 3-pointers fly, there was no question they were going to be dangerous. They've been that and more.
Following Sunday's game, the Mystics' offensive rating is a robust 112.4, which as it stands would be the best mark in WNBA history; no team has ever even recorded an offensive rating of 110. During their current winning streak, which has now reached six games, their offensive rating is an astounding 118.1, and they're shooting 41.3 percent from 3.
The WNBA has never seen an offense quite like this, and opposing teams have little hope. Of the Mystics' 20 wins, 11 of them have come by 20 points or more, and 14 have been by double digits. Their 39-point win over the Fever on Sunday wasn't even their biggest margin of victory this season, coming up a few points short of their 43-point destruction of the Sun in late June.
After getting swept by the Storm in the Finals last season, the Mystics look every bit the team to beat right now.
1. Washington Mystics (20-7) -- last week No. 1
The Mystics are on fire. Three more wins this week saw them extend their winning streak to six games, and they've now won 11 of their last 12 contests to move to 20-7 on the season. They were the first team to clinch a playoff spot, and boast an outrageous plus-14.2 net rating. Elena Delle Donne and Co. still have some work to do to clinch a top-two seed, but they look like the team to beat right now.
2. Las Vegas Aces (18-9) -- last week No. 3
After an ankle injury kept her sidelined for a month, A'ja Wilson was back in action on Sunday, and she returned in style, dropping 25 points and eight rebounds on the Sky. Wilson's return is great news for the Aces as they continue to chase both the Sun and Mystics for a top-two seed. Winners of three in a row, the Aces have clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2014, and are just two games out of first place.
3. Connecticut Sun (19-8) -- last week No. 4
After dropping two in a row, the Sun responded with a three-game winning streak this week. It wasn't always pretty, and one of the wins came via an absolute robbery of the Storm, but wins are wins -- especially with the race for a top-two seed heating up. The Sun have clinched a playoff spot, and currently sit in second place, just one game ahead of the Aces.
4. Chicago Sky (15-11) -- last week No. 5
The Sky just keep hanging around. They've alternated wins and losses now for their last four games, which is fine considering all of those contests came against the Sparks or Aces. At this point it's clear that Chicago is a legit playoff team, and with Los Angeles' recent stumble, they're still right there for a first-round bye, which is shocking considering the expectations heading into the season.
5. Los Angeles Sparks (15-10) -- last week No. 2
So much for the Sparks' turnaround. After five wins in a row, they dropped both of their contests this week, losing first to the lowly Wings, and then to the Sky. Their defense, which has been so strong for much of the season, was non-existent in either game. Now they're down to 15-10 on the season, and are a full two games out of a top-two seed.
6. Seattle Storm (15-13) -- last week No. 6
It was not a pretty week for the Storm, who continue to be quite inconsistent. They got absolutely destroyed by the Mystics, went on the road and should have beaten the Sun, but collapsed down the stretch and then came back home Sunday and took care of the Lynx. This is just who they are without Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. There will be nights they can play with, and even beat any team in the league, and others where nothing works.
7. Phoenix Mercury (13-13) -- last week No. 9
After losing four out of five games, the last of which resulted in Brittney Griner getting suspended for three games, the Mercury looked like they might be in trouble. But they got through their Griner-less week with a 2-1 record, and are back to .500 at 13-13. Playing the Dream and Liberty to close out the week certainly helped, but this team will take any win they can get.
8. Dallas Wings (9-18) -- last week No. 11
While they should perhaps be following the Liberty's lead, the Wings are showing no interest in tanking. In fact, they've been getting stronger as the season has gone along. They started the week with a win over the Sparks, then beat the Liberty to establish their first three-game winning streak of the season. This team is going to be a tough out down the stretch.
9. Minnesota Lynx (13-14) -- last week No. 7
The bad news for the Lynx is they went 1-2 this week to drop to 13-14 on the season. The good news is one of those losses was to the Mystics by just seven points, which is the closest any team has come to beating the league leaders during their winning streak, and a much better showing than when the two teams played last week and the Mystics won by 23. OK, perhaps that really isn't such good news after all.
10. Indiana Fever (9-17) -- last week No. 8
The Fever only had one game this week, and it's probably best not to talk too much about what happened. Let's just say that the Fever are not as good as the Mystics. We already knew that, though, so there really wasn't much to learn about Indiana this week. They're still hanging around on the fringe of the playoff race, but at 3 1/2 games back with eight games left to play, they'd probably be better off tanking.
11. New York Liberty (8-18) -- last week No. 10
The Liberty appear to be packing it in for the season, which in all honesty is the best move for the future. They're dealing with numerous injuries now, and are well off the pace in terms of the playoff picture. Losing eight in a row after a decent start to the season is quite disappointing, but at this point they need to look to the future, and that means putting themselves in the best possible position to secure the No. 1 pick.
12. Atlanta Dream (5-21) -- last week No. 12
The losses continue to mount for the Dream, who fell twice this week to extend their losing streak to 11 games. They've been more competitive lately, with their last three losses coming by single digits, but that won't be much consolation at this point. They went 4-30 in their inaugural season in 2008, so they don't have to worry about setting the worst record in franchise history, but this season hasn't been much better.
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