A Chaotic Sprint to the Finish for the W.N.B.A. Season

The Chicago Sky, the reigning champions, are assured of one of many high two spots within the upcoming W.N.B.A. playoffs. The rebuilding Indiana Fever are the one crew out of rivalry. Every part else is up for grabs.

The ultimate week of the W.N.B.A.’s common season ought to be a showcase of the parity and chaos the league has seen all season. Six of the league’s 12 groups are battling for the final three playoff spots, and the groups which have already clinched are nonetheless jockeying for seeding.

On the high of the standings, the Sky are 25-8 and maintain a two-game lead within the race for the No. 1 seed. Chicago can fall no additional than a No. 2 seed after a win Sunday over the Connecticut Solar, however it’s going to nonetheless want to carry off the Las Vegas Aces, who spoiled Sue Chicken’s last regular-season recreation at Local weather Pledge Area with a win over the Seattle Storm. Chicago and Las Vegas face off Thursday of their last regular-season assembly.

The Solar are solidly within the third spot however may nonetheless overtake the Aces for the No. 2 seed. A much bigger battle is brewing beneath them, although, as Seattle and the Washington Mystics combat for home-court benefit in what is sort of sure to be the playoff matchup between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. The Storm are at a scheduling disadvantage, with video games on the highway towards Chicago and Las Vegas round a visit to Minneapolis. The Mystics, in the meantime, end with two video games towards the last-place Fever and play their final regular-season game at residence.

Of the groups hoping to clinch one of many last playoff spots, the Dallas Wings have been in one of the best form getting into Monday, holding a 16-16 report with four games remaining — all towards groups that sit beneath them within the standings. Marina Mabrey’s 31 factors helped Dallas clinch a berth with an 86-77 win Monday evening towards the Liberty.

Beneath the Wings, although, the race is large open. With three video games left for every, the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury are tied at 14-19, although the Dream personal the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Liberty are actually 13-20 with three video games left, and the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks are additionally hanging on at 13-20.

The Dream, the Mercury and the Liberty have all been with out key gamers down the stretch. Atlanta guard Tiffany Hayes has missed three games with an ankle harm, whereas Phoenix introduced Monday that Diana Taurasi would miss the remainder of the common season with a quad harm. For Saturday’s recreation with Phoenix, the Liberty had lastly gotten wholesome as Betnijah Laney returned to motion two months after knee surgery, however ahead Natasha Howard went down with an ankle injury.

These accidents may go away the door open for the ninth-place Lynx: They maintain the season tiebreakers over Phoenix and the Liberty, they usually play the Mercury in a must-win recreation Wednesday. However the remainder of Minnesota’s schedule is daunting, with video games at residence towards Seattle and on the highway towards Connecticut. In its favor is the comeback of Napheesa Collier, who returned Sunday lower than three months after giving delivery. (A motivating factor for her was the possibility to play once more with Sylvia Fowles, who’s retiring on the finish of the season.)

Lastly, the Sparks could face probably the most tough path to a playoff berth, for causes on and off the court docket. Los Angeles had been in place for the No. 6 seed after a July 21 win over the Dream. However with drama swirling because the four-time All-Star Liz Cambage left the crew, the Sparks dropped six video games in a row to fall to eleventh place.

A win Sunday towards the Mystics stored their hopes alive. However they need to play back-to-back games this week towards the third-place Solar earlier than ending up towards the surging Wings. And making issues worse, the Sparks have been caught up in a journey nightmare whereas making an attempt to go away Washington.

After their flight was delayed after which canceled, some members of the Sparks spent the evening within the airport when there weren’t sufficient resort rooms for all gamers. Nneka Ogwumike, a former league M.V.P., stated in a video posted on Twitter, “It’s the primary time in my 11 seasons that I’ve ever needed to sleep within the airport.”

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