The Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty will battle it out for a chance to play in the postseason.
Every team in the Eastern Conference has two games in their regular season schedule. With the exception of the Indiana Fever, every team in the conference has a shot at making the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the key storylines surrounding each team, recap their last few games, and preview the matchups they have left ahead of them.
The Sky Are At the Top of the Leaderboard, But They Aren’t Invincible
The Sky picked up their 24th win on Friday (a franchise record for most wins in a season), but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the team recently. Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm arrived in Chicago for Bird and Briann January’s final regular season game in the city, and thanks to an offensive flurry from several Seattle players, those two teammates will be able to remember their final trip to Chicago with great fondness. After being outscored 38–26 in the first quarter, the Sky just couldn’t find their way back into the game.
The good news for Chicago is that they still hold the number one seed in WNBA standings. The bad news for Chicago is that their next game is against the Aces—the team that is right behind them.
If we exclude the Commissioner’s Cup Finals (which Las Vegas won), the Sky and the Aces are 1–1 this season. With Dearica Hamby being out for the foreseeable future, Chicago’s bench might be the difference maker in this matchup.
One thing to keep an eye on: Candace Parker fell awkwardly versus the Mystics a few times and kept grabbing at her knee. Parker did say that “she was just old” when she was asked about her knee earlier this season, so hopefully there’s nothing too serious going on. Her team will need her to be healthy for the playoffs, especially since the top-seeded teams do not get a first round bye this year.
You can catch Chicago’s game against the Aces on August 11 at 10:00 PM ET. The game will be on NBA TV. The Sky play their final regular season game against the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday at 5:00 PM ET. That game will be broadcast on Amazon Prime.
The Connecticut Sun Keep Handling Their Business on the Court
The Connecticut Sun are the definition of consistency. They are headed to the playoffs for their sixth consecutive season, are currently seeded third in the league and have a chance to move into second, and have only lost games to four different teams this season. Despite the fact that the Sun lost Jasmine Thomas to an ACL injury at the beginning of the season and has dealt with several Covid outbreaks among team personnel, Connecticut has had another remarkable year.
This team swept most of the WNBA awards last season (their Instagram bio still mentions that they are the home to the 2021 Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, and Coach of the Year), and with how well Alyssa Thomas has been playing this season, they might just collect one of the few awards that was missing from their collection last year—the Defensive Player of the Year award. Thomas is the only player in the WNBA who has 5 games with 4 or more steals, and she is one of three players in the league who has multiple triple-doubles this season. Prior to this year, no player in Connecticut history had ever recorded a triple-double, so Thomas has certainly left her mark on the franchise with the two that she has already tallied throughout the year.
The good news for Connecticut is that their final two games are against teams that they have not lost to this year. They take on the Sparks again on August 11 and then close out their season against the Lynx on August 14. If they win both matchups, they might just leapfrog the Aces in the league standings and head into the playoffs as the second seed.
You can catch the Sun’s contest against the Sparks at 10:30 PM ET on Twitter and their game against the Lynx at 1:00 PM ET on ABC.
Washington Looks to Find Its Energy Again
The Mystics clinched their playoff spot last week, but with their back-to-back losses against the Sky and the Sparks this weekend, it’s looking like they’re not going to have a home-court advantage during the first round of postseason action.
After the Mystics’ loss to the Sky on Friday, Coach Thibault admitted that the team had been working through some bad practices recently and that they had been playing “flat” and “tired.”
Thibault said that he’s had to stop practice because things have not “looked right.” Elena Delle Donne not making shots doesn’t look right to many basketball fans, but knowing how great of a player Delle Donne is, she’s bound to bounce back from her shooting slump soon.
The good news for Washington fans is that their final two regular season games are against the Indiana Fever. The Fever are at the bottom of WNBA standings, and if the Mystics win both games, they have a chance to regain the home-court advantage for the playoffs.
The Washington Mystics just signed Jazmine Jones to their roster, so fans can keep an eye out to see if she makes it into the team’s rotation on Friday and Sunday’s games.
You can catch Friday’s game against the Fever at 7:00 PM ET on Facebook, and you can catch Sunday’s game against the Fever at 3:00 PM ET on ESPN3.
Ionescu Has Been Brilliant, but the Liberty Need to Step Up Their Game
Sabrina Ionescu has been having herself a season. Last week, Ionescu became the first player in WNBA history to record 500 points, 200 rebounds, and 200 assists in a single season. She also recorded another game with 30+ points on Monday. Unfortunately for Ionescu, the Liberty lost both of the games that Ionescu achieved both of those feats in. We’re still confused as to how they lost to a Phoenix Mercury squad that did not feature Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith.
When Marine Johannès was asked about Ionescu’s performance over the past few games on Monday, Johannès said this:
“I know Sab is definitely like … she’s here every night, she’s here for the team and we have to help her.”
The team did just that during New York’s rematch against Dallas on Wednesday night. Ionescu was scoreless in the first half of the Liberty’s rematch against Dallas, but Johannès and Sami Whitcomb kept New York’s offense alive. Their contributions allowed Ionescu to find her rhythm, and she came alive in the third quarter to help propel her team to a much-needed win.
With two games left in the season, the Liberty are now sitting in the final playoff spot. They’re going to need a healthy Natasha Howard (who has missed several games with an ankle injury), two more big performances from Ionescu, and contributions from the whole team if they want to keep their season alive.
The Liberty play their final two regular-season games against the Dream. If they win both, they’ll knock Atlanta out of the playoffs.
You can catch Friday’s game on CBSSN at 7:30 PM ET, and Sunday’s game at 2:00 PM ET on ESPN3.
The Dream Still Lives on for Atlanta
The Dream have been so exciting to watch this season, and they’re certainly keeping things interesting in these last couple of regular season games. They’ve had a few chances to lock in their playoff spot, but with recent losses against the Aces, Sparks, and Lynx, their postseason dreams are in jeopardy. With Atlanta, New York, Phoenix, and Minnesota all battling for the seventh and eighth spots, we might actually see the final two playoff spots decided through the WNBA’s tiebreak procedure.
Rhyne Howard has been the driving force for this team, and she has been having a historic season. Howard became the first Dream rookie to score 500 points in their debut season, and she also just broke the record for the most three-pointers made by a rookie in league history. Howard isn’t the only rookie in Atlanta who has been breaking records: Naz Hillmon now holds the franchise record for rebounds in a rookie season.
In terms of other notable players, Aari McDonald has continued to make a case for why she should be considered for the Sixth Player of the Year award. Aari was a huge force off of the bench against the Aces and finished the game with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Atlanta only has two games left this season. Their opponent for both games? The New York Liberty. These teams are 1–1 against each other this season, and Atlanta won their last matchup in overtime. They’ll need Erica Wheeler’s buzzer-beating energy once again in these last two games if they want their season to continue beyond the weekend.
You can catch Friday’s game on CBSSN at 7:30 PM ET, and Sunday’s game at 2:00 PM ET on ESPN3.
The Fever Look to Close Out Their Season With a Win
If you’ve only been watching the WNBA for a month or so, you have not had the opportunity to witness the Indiana Fever win a basketball game. The Fever are currently on a 17-game losing streak.
For rookies who spent their college years playing at winning programs like Baylor, Stanford, South Carolina, and Louisville, this season has been a sharp adjustment. The good news is that every rookie on the Fever roster has demonstrated significant improvements in their game over the course of the year, and NaLyssa Smith (the number two pick in this year’s draft) has pretty much locked in her spot on the 2022 All-Rookie Team.
While Indiana did lose their game against Dallas on Saturday, the team had its highest-scoring first quarter of the season (30 points) and managed to take the game to overtime.
Their final two contests of the season are against the Washington Mystics. The Fever have not defeated the Mystics yet this season, but if their rookies bring some serious energy to Friday and Sunday’s matchup, they might just come away with a win against a Washington team that Coach Thibault has described as playing “flat” and “tired” recently.
You can catch Friday’s game against the Mystics at 7:00 PM ET on Facebook, and you can catch Sunday’s game at 3:00 PM ET on ESPN3.
Here’s a wild fact to wrap up this week’s article. If the Sparks or Mercury miss the playoffs, the Chicago Sky or Washington Mystics could potentially end up with Aliyah Boston (or a lottery pick in general) during next year’s draft. The WNBA just continues to be full of surprises.