Guru's WNBA Playoff Hunt: Most Up For Grabs Down The Stretch
By Mel Greenberg
Fasten your seatbelts because it is going to be a thrilling but bumpy ride rooting your favorite teams to playoff positioning before actually the real fun in the postseason begins.
The only team that can enjoy the spoils of victory so far is the Minnesota Lynx, which wrapped up their first Western Conference regular season crown Sunday thus earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
But as coach Cheryl Reeve cautions, “there are no guarantees.”
Just ask the Washington Mystics, who tied for the regular season title a year ago with New York, earned the No. 1 seed, but then were quickly ousted 2-0 in the best-of-three first round by the fourth-seeded Atlanta Dream, who had struggled down the stretch but in their third year of existence got to the finals and lost three narrow outcomes to the dominant Seattle Storm.
Having won the West, Minnesota will be spending most of its time against the East finishing up with the only unknown being who will be the fourth-seed, currently being contested by the San Antonio Silver Stars and Los Angeles Sparks, to oppose the Lynx in the opening best-of-three conference semifinals.
The Lynx are also trying to bag three more wins to earn best overall record ahead of Indiana and home-court advantage all the way through if Minnesota keeps making an advance.
Minnesota handled its own side of the fence quite well in series with the West delegations, beating Seattle 3-1, Los Angeles 4-1, including four straight after dropping the season opener on the road while holding a lead in the second half; swept Tulsa 4-0 and San Antonio 4-0.
Phoenix has played the Lynx tough and the series is 2-2 with one game remaining in Phoenix. Minnesota otherwise will be impacting the East race with a home-and-home this weekend with the New York Liberty and a game at home next week against the Chicgo Sky.
Seattle, holding a half-game lead over Phoenix in the West, needs one win or a Los Angeles loss to clinch a spot in the postseason. That can come in one-shot Tuesday in a trip to LA after Sunday’s narrow win at home against the Sparks.
(Is it just your Guru, or is this year’s schedule strange in its makeup?)
The Storm’s remaining games against the West after the L.A., whose series they lead 2-1, visit are one at home against Phoenix leading the series 2-1; one on the road at San Antonio, having already won the series with a 3-1 lead; and one at Tulsa, of which the series has already been clinched with a 4-0 lead. They also have one crossover game hosting Chicago.
Phoenix, moving close to a playoff berth, has a three-game lead on fourth-place San Antonio and a 4.5 lead on Los Angeles with six remaining. Tied 2-2 with San Antonio, they have a visit at the Silver Stars; tied 2-2 with Minnesota, they host the Lynx; trailing Seattle 2-1, they visit the Storm; trailing 2-1 with Los Angeles, the last one was coughed up in overtime, they host the Sparks, and leading Tulsa 2-0, they have a home-and-home with the Shock.
San Antonio fighting for its life has, as mentioned, lost out all four to Minnesota; They’ve lost the series to Seattle 3-1 with a home game left; they are split with Phoenix with a home game left; they lead Los Angeles 2-1 with one road game left and are 3-0 against Tulsa with a road game left.
They also host Connecticut, Tuesday night, and host Washington from the East.
Los Angeles, lost the Minnesota series 4-1; the Sparks trail Seattle, 2-1, with a home game left Tuesday night; they lead Phoenix 2-1 with a visit left; they trail San Antonio 2-1, with a home game left and they lead Tulsa 2-1 with a home game left. The Sparks also host Chicago in one last crossover game.
The East Hunt
Indiana holding a slim 1.5 lead over Connecticut, has two left with Atlanta, one at home and one on the road Tuesday night trailing 2-0 in the series; one left at Connecticut having won the series with a 3-1 lead; one left at New York, leading the series 2-1; leading Chicago 2-1 with a road visit left; and won Washington 4-0 with a home game left. There is nothing left to play against the West.
Connecticut, besides the San Antonio visit, trails Indiana, losing the series, 3-1 with a home game left; leading New York 2-1 with a visit left; leading Atlanta 2-1 with a visit left; won the series with Chicago 3-2 and nothing left; and lead Washington 3-0 with a visit left.
New York trails Indiana 2-1 with a home game left; trails Connecticut 2-1 with a home game left; won the Atlanta series 3-2 with nothing left; even with Chicago 2-2 with Tuesday’s home game left; and split with Washington 2-2. Oh, yes, those Minnesota Lynx have a home-and-home deal with the New Yorkers this weekend.
Atlanta leads Indiana 2-0 with a home and home left; trails Connecticut 2-1 with a home game left; lost to New York 3-2 with nothing left; won the Chicago series 3-1; and leads the Washington series 2-1 with a home-and-home left. There’s also a visit from Tulsa from the West.
Chicago trails Indiana 2-1 with one left; lost the series to Connecticut 3-2; is even with New York 2-2 heading to the Liberty Tuesday; lost the series to Atlanta 3-1; swept Washington 4-0, and for the hard part that’s harder, finishes in the West at Minnesota, at Los Angeles, at Seattle.
Ladies keep your engines running.