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Sorting Out the 2015 WNBA Playoff Picture

With over a week left to go in the regular season, the WNBA playoff picture has finally shaped up. The top three teams in each conference have been set, however, the fourth and final slots for the playoffs have yet to be clinched.

In the East, the New York Liberty, Chicago Sky and Indiana Fever have all clinched a playoff berth. The Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury and Tulsa Shock are the mirrored teams in the West to achieve the same feat.

The East has been a roller coaster ride all season, and the only consistency has been the Liberty in first place. Aside from that, the Sky, Fever and Washington Mystics have all had their run at second place as well as third and fourth place.

Currently, the Mystics are in fourth place in the East. They’re on a three-game losing streak, with their most recent defeat coming on Thursday against the Los Angeles Sparks. Coming up, Washington plays the Atlanta Dream on Sept. 6 and 13.

Atlanta is the only other team in the East who’s yet to clinch a playoff spot or be eliminated from contention. The Mystics haven’t been able to conquer the Dream this season aside from the preseason matchup.

But the Dream currently sit four games out of fourth place, so they’re in big trouble. While they have four more games left in the regular season, three of those are conference games — two against the Mystics and one hosting the Fever.

Unlike the East, the West has held stable standings for the season, with the Lynx and Mercury ruling the conference.

Earlier in the season there was some doubt that the Shock would have a shot at the playoffs. The team suffered a 10-game losing streak throughout July, however, the momentum shifted in August as the team posted a 6-4 record in their next 10 games. The most recent win for the Shock was a 85-67 blowout over the Seattle Storm.

The biggest struggle for the Shock this season has been the loss of key players. At the beginning of the year, Glory Johnson announced she’d miss the 2015 season because of her pregnancy. Recently, Skylar Diggins was declared out for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL. But even despite these setbacks, Tulsa was still able to secure a playoff spot.

The final spot in the West comes down to either the Sparks or the Storm. Out of the two, the Sparks made a surge earlier in the season to give them cushion for when the playoffs came around, and they currently have a 3.5-game lead over Seattle.

The Sparks were in a similar boat as the Shock in July with a poor record. But towards the end of July, Candace Parker returned to the Sparks and lifted them to a four-game winning streak. Like the Shock, the Sparks are 6-4 in their last 10 games, and they have three games left (vs. Shock, at Dream, at Mercury).

Meanwhile, the Storm are hanging on by a thread with a record of 9-21. Seattle’s 2-13 road record has been a killer, and they have two tough road games coming up against the Sky and Lynx before finishing up at home with two tilts against Minnesota and the last-place San Antonio Stars.

That closing stretch for Seattle is likely a death knell for its playoff hopes, so expect Los Angeles to grab that final playoff spot in the West. Washington will almost certainly get the final playoff spot in the East, so we’re looking at New York, Chicago, Indiana and Washington in the East to go along with Minnesota, Phoenix, Tulsa and Los Angeles in the West.

The first week of the WNBA playoffs is the week of Sept. 14.

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