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August 28 2016: San Antonio Stars guard Moriah Jefferson (4) dribbles away from Washington Mystics guard Tayler Hill (4) during a WNBA basketball game at Verizon Center, in Washington D.C. San Antonio Stars defeated the Washington Mystics 85-74. (Photo by Tony Quinn/IconSportswire)
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WNBA Weekly Rundown: Playoff picture becoming clearer

Photo by Tony Quinn/IconSportswire

With only a few games left in the WNBA’s regular season, the postseason arrangement is rounding into form. In fact, seven of the eight possible playoff berths have already been clinched, with only the final seed still up for grabs, and even that is looking like it’s all but a sure thing at this point.

While the Los Angeles Sparks have been slipping (they’ve lost 6 of their last 10 games), the Minnesota Lynx have remained strong after the Olympic break, securing the coveted #1 overall playoff seed. The Sparks, meanwhile, are in at No. 2, and Brian Agler has already begun resting his starters in anticipation for their first playoff game. At 21-11, the New York Liberty have locked up the No. 3 seed; they’ll get a bye and meet the winner of the 6 vs. 7 first-round matchup.

The rest of the field is still jockeying for position, though. At 16-15, the Indiana Fever, Chicago Sky, and Atlanta Dream all have identical records, and they’re all vying for the other first-round bye that the No. 4 seed would give them. The Fever currently hold the tiebreaker, but there’s still plenty of time to determine who will emerge as the best of the rest.

The Seattle Storm, with their recent win against the shorthanded Sparks, clinched their first playoff appearance since 2013, and with their young core looking sprier than ever as the season drags on, it wouldn’t take a soothsayer to predict that they’ll go on another long streak of consecutive postseason berths. They’re currently in at No. 7, and while a higher seed may be a longshot, the Storm are one of the hottest teams in the league at the moment, so don’t count them out.

Teams you can count out are the San Antonio Stars (who, at 6-25, were eliminated long ago), the Dallas Wings, and the Connecticut Sun. While the Stars weren’t expected by many to compete heading into the season, the disappointment is greater for the Wings, whose inaugural season was sunk by an extensive losing streak and injuries to their top players. The Sun, too, had good reason to fight for the postseason: they traded their 2017 first-round pick to Los Angeles on draft day and are now faced with the bitter reality of a gamble that isn’t paying dividends.

Rookie Report

Leading the charge for the peaking Storm is, of course, rookie phenom Breanna Stewart. Stewart was named Western Conference Player of the Week, averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds per game as the Storm went 3-0.

It was a good week for the rest of the field, too, with Bria Holmes, Courtney Williams, and Haley Peters all recording career-highs in points: 18, 20, and 19, respectively. Expect to see plenty more of Williams and Peters in particular, as both of their teams have already been eliminated from the playoffs. Holmes, too, will probably continue to get significant minutes on the playoff-bound Dream; she hasn’t played under 20 minutes in a game since July and exceeded 30 minutes twice this past week.

Finally, there’s Stars point guard Moriah Jefferson. She hasn’t scored in single figures since June, and this week put up a pair of performances that need to be seen to be believed:

 

Moriah Jefferson scores 27 points in loss to the Wings

Moriah Jefferson scores 26 points in loss to the Lynx

Other Notes

Chicago Sky guard Cappie Pondexter continues to climb the scoring charts, recently passing Lisa Leslie for 5th all-time. Pondexter, who is now well past 6,000 career points, will be looking to carry more of the burden for the Sky, who will be out for the foreseeable future after undergoing surgery on her right thumb.

In off-court news, all-time great Sheryl Swoopes was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this past weekend. “The Female Michael Jordan” joins Leslie, Dawn Staley, Cynthia Cooper, Teresa Edwards, Lynette Woodard, and Nancy Lieberman on this list of former WNBA players who have received this honor. Check out her heartfelt induction speech:

Top Performers

  1. Sylvia Fowles: 21 points (9-11 FG), 9 rebounds, 3 blocks vs Los Angeles Sparks
  2. Tina Charles: 29 points (11-21 FG), 10 rebounds, 5 blocks vs Dallas Wings
  3. Jewell Loyd: 25 points (9-14 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists vs New York Liberty
  4. Brittney Griner: 21 points (6-8 FG, 9-9 FT), 9 rebounds, 5 blocks vs Atlanta Dream
WNBA Weekly Rundown: Playoff picture becoming clearer

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