Inside the W with Michelle Smith: Painting a Playoff Picture –


It’s time to start painting the playoffs with 10 of the league’s 12 teams realistically battling for seeds, passes and playoff spots. As we head into the home stretch of the 2021 regular season and prepare to celebrate and honor league history, let’s take stock.

Connecticut in the driver’s seat. After a disappointing loss to Seattle in the Commissioner’s Cup just after the Olympic break, the Sun rushed and slipped to first position for the coveted No.1 seed in the playoffs and a playoff double-bye for the second time in the past three seasons. Connecticut have won seven straight wins and nine of their last 10 games in a truly impressive streak that has included two wins over Minnesota, one over Las Vegas and another from a rejuvenated Los Angeles Sparks team. The remaining seven games include a four-game road trip to Washington, Dallas, LA and Phoenix as Jonquel Jones runs her to the MVP Award with 13 double doubles, leading the league in rebounds and fourth in the league in scoring.

Phoenix flips the switch. Five straight wins for the Mercury, a season high, fits a pattern for Phoenix in recent years. Sputter to start the season, find some rhythm in the home stretch and become the team no one wants to face in the playoffs. Phoenix (14-10) is one game behind Minnesota for fourth place in the playoffs and a first-round pass. Diana Taurasi is in good health. Skylar Diggins-Smith is playing his best basketball of the season – averaging 18.0 points per game over the five-game winning streak and going 9-3 from a four-game losing streak in mid-June . As Brittney Griner’s ankle injury in the dying minutes of Wednesday’s win over New York looks like a setback, Griner has time to recover and prepare for the playoffs. She left the game with 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists and the Mercury registered 106 points, a season-high. Phoenix has a home stretch that will include games against Connecticut, Seattle and Las Vegas. There’s no better way to find out where you are heading into the playoffs.

Sylvia Fowles has been on a mission lately, and she’s looking to end the season on a high note.

Poultry until arrival. Minnesota rose to the top 4 in the playoffs with a rally before the Olympic break and eight wins in 10 games – the two losses coming in back-to-back clashes against the scorching red Connecticut Sun. The Lynx’s chances for a long run in the playoffs rest on Sylvia Fowles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist who came into the air in Monday night’s huge win over Seattle, which ended a streak of 11 consecutive defeats against the Storm. Fowles became the first player in league history to post a game with 29 points, 20 rebounds, four steals and three blocks in a game in which she also didn’t commit any faults or turnovers. It was another amazing performance from the Minnesota center player, and they’ll need more where it comes from. The Lynx hold Phoenix for fourth with a 15-9 record and have a chance to hold onto that lead with five of six games in Minneapolis, a place where the Lynx have been fairly comfortable over the years.

Double bye battle until the end. While the Sun sit at the top of the standings, there are two other teams that have clinched their playoff spots – the Storm and the Aces, and are currently in the race to finish No.2 and win the second double-pass. for the semi-finals. The Aces are currently half a game away in the race for second place with a Thursday victory over the Dream which also came with the most welcome sight as veteran winger Angel McCoughtry took the field for the first time from the season with seconds to play on the clock. The Vegas lineup has built up with Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum on the perimeter, with A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage inside, giving the Aces every reason to believe they’ll be looking too. of trophies. Seattle, meanwhile, has lost three games in its last five on its longest road trip of the season. The Storm will play at home for the first time since July 11, when they host Chicago on Friday to start a four-game homestand that could define their playoff position on the home stretch of the regular season schedule.

The view from below. Only three games in the standings separate the five teams contending for the last two league playoff spots, which are said to be currently occupied by the Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings and New York Liberty, the last two of the league’s youngest teams. looking for playoff credits, while veteran Los Angeles and Washington teams look to rush into a solid finish. Chicago wants to enter the playoffs healthy and putting Candace Parker back on the field after a troubling ankle injury was a big step in that direction. Dallas has struggled to win at home (with five home games in its last 7), and the Liberties have lost three games in a row and need to get back on track. Los Angeles, behind Nneka Ogwumike’s game, have won four in a row before dropping two in a row on the road and have work to do to earn a playoff spot with two games to go against the Sun and one game. against the Storm. Washington has been through an injury-ridden season and was delighted to have Elena Delle Donne back on the pitch, but her early exit Thursday for “precautionary” reasons, as well as an injury to star Tina Charles (who will be missed the next 4-5 games with a strain on the glutes) must worry the Mystics about their ability to make a playoff push.

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