NEW YORK (AP) — With the WNBA All-Star break in the rearview mirror teams are ready for the sprint to the end of the regular season.
All 12 teams will play eight or nine games over the next few weeks setting the stage for what should be of the most exciting final few weeks of the regular season in league history. There are only four losses separating second place Atlanta and ninth-place Las Vegas.
“It’s going to be a wild last few weeks,” said Washington’s Elena Delle Donne, whose team lost the All-Star game 119-112 on Saturday.
The Mystics are currently in seventh place, but can easily move up the standings with a few consecutive wins. Just ask Atlanta, which has won a franchise record eight straight games to vault into second place in the standings.
The only team that’s been eliminated from the playoff chase is Indiana.
A look at this week’s WNBA poll which Seattle sits atop:
1. Seattle (19-7): Storm only need a few more wins to clinch a playoff berth and are in the best position to lock up one of the coveted top two seeds.
2. Atlanta (16-9): Have definitely been the surprise of the league this season and the Dream play five of their final nine games at home.
3. Minnesota (15-10): Put on quite a show hosting the All-Star game and have momentum heading down the stretch with three straight wins.
4. Los Angeles (15-11): Sparks are getting healthy for the stretch run, Alana Beard has recovered from a groin injury and Nneka Ogwumike is back from an undisclosed illness.
5. Phoenix (15-11): Could have most favorable schedule with seven of final nine games at home, then again the Mercury are a shocking 5-6 at Phoenix this season.
6. Dallas (14-11): Wings faltered a bit before the break, dropping their final two games. They close the season with four of five on the road.
7. Connecticut (14-12): Has six of final eight games at home and four games against teams currently in the playoffs.
8. Washington (14-11): Is only 4-7 against teams from the old Western Conference and has seven of final nine against those squads.
9. Las Vegas (12-13): Whether the Aces make the playoffs or not, they have a solid foundation in A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride.
10. Chicago (9-17): Sky wouldn’t mind seeing Las Vegas make the playoffs to improve WNBA draft lottery position.
11. New York (7-18): Pretty much locked into the fourth spot in the draft lottery, Liberty are trying to play with more consistency down the stretch.
12. Indiana (3-22): Have shown they can play with the best, their three wins have come against Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minnesota.
Player of the week
Sylvia Fowles had 27 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the Minnesota Lynx win over New York. Other players receiving votes were Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, Chicago’s Diamond DeShields and Seattle’s Breanna Stewart.
Allie Quigley defended her 3-point shooting title at the All-Star game, beating Kayla McBride in overtime of the contest. Quigley hit an impressive 20 of the 25 shots in the extra round to finish with 29 out of a possible 34 points. That’s the most points scored ever in a WNBA or NBA shooting contest since the rules changed in 2014 putting in an all-money ball rack where each shot is worth two points.
It’s in the shoes
Puma became an official footwear partner with the WNBA last week, marking the company’s first deal with a pro sports league. Skylar Diggins-Smith became a brand ambassador for Puma last season and wore a pair of their shoes in the All-Star game.
Fans tuned in to watch the new All-Star format that pitted Team Delle Donne against Team Parker. Ratings were up 20 percent.
Game of the week
Las Vegas at Connecticut, Sunday. This game will go a long way in determining the Aces’ chances of making the playoffs. As the winner will have the tiebreaker between the teams.