The Chicago Sky, the reigning champions, are assured of one in every of the highest two spots within the upcoming W.N.B.A. playoffs. The rebuilding Indiana Fever are the one team out of contention. Every part else is up for grabs.
The ultimate week of the W.N.B.A.’s regular season must be a showcase of the parity and chaos the league has seen all season. Six of the league’s 12 teams are battling for the final three playoff spots, and the teams which have already clinched are still jockeying for seeding.
At the highest of the standings, the Sky are 25-8 and hold a two-game lead within the race for the No. 1 seed. Chicago can fall no further than a No. 2 seed after a win Sunday over the Connecticut Sun, but it’ll still must hold off the Las Vegas Aces, who spoiled Sue Bird’s final regular-season game at Climate Pledge Arena with a win over the Seattle Storm. Chicago and Las Vegas face off Thursday of their final regular-season meeting.
The Sun are solidly within the third spot but could still overtake the Aces for the No. 2 seed. An even bigger battle is brewing below them, though, as Seattle and the Washington Mystics fight for home-court advantage in what is sort of certain to be the playoff matchup between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. The Storm are at a scheduling drawback, with games on the road against Chicago and Las Vegas around a visit to Minneapolis. The Mystics, meanwhile, finish with two games against the last-place Fever and play their final regular-season game at home.
Of the teams hoping to clinch one in every of the ultimate playoff spots, the Dallas Wings were in the most effective shape entering Monday, holding a 16-16 record with 4 games remaining — all against teams that sit below them within the standings. Marina Mabrey’s 31 points helped Dallas clinch a berth with an 86-77 win Monday night against the Liberty.
Below the Wings, though, the race is wide open. With three games left for every, the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury are tied at 14-19, though the Dream own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Liberty are actually 13-20 with three games left, and the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks are also hanging on at 13-20.
The Dream, the Mercury and the Liberty have all been without key players down the stretch. Atlanta guard Tiffany Hayes has missed three games with an ankle injury, while Phoenix announced Monday that Diana Taurasi would miss the remaining of the regular season with a quad injury. For Saturday’s game with Phoenix, the Liberty had finally gotten healthy as Betnijah Laney returned to motion two months after knee surgery, but forward Natasha Howard went down with an ankle injury.
Those injuries could leave the door open for the ninth-place Lynx: They hold the season tiebreakers over Phoenix and the Liberty, they usually play the Mercury in a must-win game Wednesday. But the remaining of Minnesota’s schedule is daunting, with games at home against Seattle and on the road against Connecticut. In its favor is the comeback of Napheesa Collier, who returned Sunday lower than three months after giving birth. (A motivating factor for her was the prospect to play again with Sylvia Fowles, who’s retiring at the tip of the season.)
Finally, the Sparks may face probably the most difficult path to a playoff berth, for reasons on and off the court. Los Angeles had been in position 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 games in a row to fall to eleventh place.
A win Sunday against the Mystics kept their hopes alive. But they need to play back-to-back games this week against the third-place Sun before ending up against the surging Wings. And making matters worse, the Sparks were caught up in a travel nightmare while trying to depart Washington.
After their flight was delayed after which canceled, some members of the Sparks spent the night within the airport when there weren’t enough hotel rooms for all players. Nneka Ogwumike, a former league M.V.P., said 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.”