WNBA: Washington Rallies for an Overtime Win Against Indiana to Gain Playoffs
WASHINGTON -- The last piece of suspense as to who will be the final overall team in the WNBA playoff field was stretched out all night here at the Verizon Center with the struggling host Washington Mystics riding LaToya Sanders’ putback in the last minute of overtime to a pulsating 76-72 victory over the Indiana Fever (18-14), who had already clinched a league record 11th straight appearance in the postseason.
The Mystics had found all kinds of ways, many coming from ahead, in the last two weeks to fail to come up with that last necessary win and it appeared that a winner/loser-take-almost-all here Sunday afternoon loomed with the Atlanta Dream in which the winner goes playoff bound but the loser would become the fourth and final team in the lucrative lottery hunt that offers University of Connecticut senior Breanna Stewart as the top prize.
But either Atlanta, which now joins the San Antonio Silver Stars, Seattle Storm, and Connecticut Sun, as Stewie hopefuls, or Washington, looking to the night of Sept. 24 when the draft pecking order is announced on ESPN2 at halftime, were and are going to be fourth-best odds needing a ping pong ball miracle to be announced No. 1.
So the Mystics, who twice rallied from 11-point deficits in the second half, with the win had the effect of a cueball in pool within the eight-team playoff field.
The New York Liberty, who the Mystics visit in Madison Square Garden Friday night, had already wrapped up the top seed in the East for the first time in more than a decade and looks to clinch overall home-court advantage through the finals when they host the Connecticut Sun Wednesday night.
Washington, with the win, gained the second seed and other home-court first-round advantage in the conference for the defending Eastern playoff champion Chicago Sky.
The Mystics (17-15) with the triumph claimed the overall series with Indiana so if Washington minimally splits its last two games while the Fever lose at Atlanta Friday night and to New York Sunday, then Washington gains the third seed, which means opening with Chicago.
So is that better than playing the Liberty in the opening round?
“I’m not saying who,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said after guiding his team to the postseason in each of the three seasons he had been at the helm after being let go from a decade coach Connecticut, which has not since seen playoff action.
“I’ve learned be careful of getting what you wished for,” Thibault said.
If Washington was going to be a long shot in the Stewie chase, this long shot on the competitive side exists that if they and Indiana would emerge from the first round, the Mystics would get the home court advantage in the best-of-three finals.
Meanwhile, across the aisle in the West, Minnesota’s win at home over Seattle 73-67 clinched the Storm’s participation in the lottery and the top seed in the conference for the Lynx over the defending champion Phoenix Mercury, which already claimed the second seed.
The Tulsa Shock, who are bound for Dallas next season, clinched the third slot and first non-losing season with a 74-64 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars since moving from what was the three-time champion Detroit Shock, coached by Bill Laimbeer, who has now revived New York’s fortunes.
The loss for San Antonio, already in the lottery, kept the Texans one game behind Seattle in two-year combined won-loss records for the best odds to land Stewie.
Los Angeles, which claimed the playoffs this weekend, can no longer move up after Tulsa’s win. The Sparks finish up at Atlanta, Wednesday, and then visiting Phoenix Friday.
And now to flip our WNBA tracking to the final week of the regular season instead of our ongoing bottom’s up posts on the race for the top lottery picks.
Here are all the latest
permutations in terms of finishes for the playoffs and magic number or what teams have to do to reach each attainable position. Though most of which has just been spoken to.
Eastern Playoff Hunt
First let’s take the East with standings and games left.
$-New York 22-9 (3) Conn. (Wed); Wash (Fri); @Ind (Sun).
Chicago 20-12 (2) Tulsa (Fri); @ Conn. (Sun).
Indiana 18-14 (2) @ Wash @ Atlanta (Fri); New York (Sun).
Wash 17-15 (2) Ind at New York (Fri); Atlanta (Sun.)
New York has clinched the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time since 2002 after winning at Minnesota Sunday in a narrow finish to sweep their two cross-divisional games with the Western Conference leaders.
The Liberty are in the driver’s seat after tying their all-time regular season win record at 22 to gain home court overall if they get to the finals with the Lynx trailing by one game.
However, Minnesota will finish visiting fifth place Seattle on Friday so if they get to 23 the Liberty will need to win one more against Connecticut at home Wednesday, or against Washington on Friday at home, or at Indiana Sunday.
A footnote, with the success to date let the Guru be the first to note that first-year president Isiah Thomas now has a better track record in the front office of the Liberty then he did down the hall in the past overseeing the NBA Knicks.
Meanwhile, the defending Eastern playoff champion Chicago Sky, holding second at 20-12, as mentioned, clinched second backing in on Indiana’s loss to Washington here.
The Fever, at 18-14 but in the playoffs for the 11th straight season, need to finish one game ahead of Washington for third and visiting Atlanta Friday and hosting New York Sunday.
Washington, as mentioned several times, goes to New York Friday and hosts Atlanta Sunday.
For the Mystics, either going 2-0 while Indy goes 1-1 or goes 1-1 while Indy goes 0-2, earns a move up to third seed.
Of course those of us in the East looking for cheap travel budgets. can take solace that a New York/Washington first round matchup gets us to all games, if necessary, and guarantees a stop at either one (Washington) or two (New York), if necessary, in the Eastern finals.
Western Playoff Race
Minnesota 22-11 (1) at Seattle (Fri).
Phoenix 19-13 (2) Los Angeles (Fri); at Tulsa (Sun).
Tulsa 17-15 (3) @ Chicago (Fri); Phoenix (Sun).
Los Angeles 14-18 (2) @ Atlanta (Wed); @ Phoenix (Fri).
Everything in the West is now decided except Minnesota needing to get to 23 wins and hope New York finishes with a three game losing streak to gain overall home court advantage through the finals.
Phoenix clinched second and Tulsa clinched third leaving Los Angeles to be fourth, though Minnesota takes no joy opening with the Sparks whose late season with Candace Parker on the roster are far more dangerous than the front part of the season when she wasn’t.
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