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 prime two spots within the upcoming W.N.B.A. playoffs. The rebuilding Indiana Fever are the one group out of competition. Everything else is up for grabs.

The ultimate week of the W.N.B.A.’s common season needs 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.

At the highest 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 Sun, however it would nonetheless want to carry off the Las Vegas Aces, who spoiled Sue Bird’s ultimate regular-season sport at Climate Pledge Arena with a win over the Seattle Storm. Chicago and Las Vegas face off Thursday of their ultimate regular-season assembly.

The Sun are solidly within the third spot however might nonetheless overtake the Aces for the No. 2 seed. An even bigger battle is brewing beneath them, although, as Seattle and the Washington Mystics struggle 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 street in opposition to Chicago and Las Vegas round a visit to Minneapolis. The Mystics, in the meantime, end with two video games in opposition to the last-place Fever and play their final regular-season game at house.

Of the groups hoping to clinch one of many ultimate playoff spots, the Dallas Wings have been in the very best form coming into Monday, holding a 16-16 report with four games remaining — all in opposition to 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 in opposition to the Liberty.

Below the Wings, although, the race is huge 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 at the moment are 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 sport 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.

Those accidents might 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 sport Wednesday. But the remainder of Minnesota’s schedule is daunting, with video games at house in opposition to Seattle and on the street in opposition to 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 prospect to play once more with Sylvia Fowles, who’s retiring at the end of the season.)

Finally, the Sparks might face essentially the most tough path to a playoff berth, for causes on and off the courtroom. Los Angeles had been in place for the No. 6 seed after a July 21 win over the Dream. But with drama swirling because the four-time All-Star Liz Cambage left the team, the Sparks dropped six video games in a row to fall to eleventh place.

A win Sunday in opposition to the Mystics stored their hopes alive. But they have to play back-to-back games this week in opposition to the third-place Sun earlier than ending up in opposition to the surging Wings. And making issues worse, the Sparks have been caught up in a journey nightmare whereas attempting to depart 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 lodge rooms for all gamers. Nneka Ogwumike, a former league M.V.P., mentioned in a video posted on Twitter, “It’s the first time in my 11 seasons that I’ve ever had to sleep in the airport.”

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