After the weekend slate of games, the playoff picture in the Western Conference is getting clearer. Let's take a look.
Team W L GB Storm Conf H/A 500+From the Storm's perspective, the biggest games of the weekend were San Antonio hosting Los Angeles Friday and then traveling to Connecticut to play on ABC yesterday. The Silver Stars won both challenging games to remain tied with the Storm atop the Western Conference. Because they hold the tiebreaker, the Storm needs the Silver Stars to lose to win the West regular-season crown. The schedule is still tough - at New York and home against the Sun and Sacramento - but at this point San Antonio is definitely in the driver's seat.
San Antonio 21 10 - 1-2 9-10 2/1 3/0
Seattle 21 10 - 13-5 1/2 2/1
Los Angeles 19 13 2.5 1-1 11-8 2/0 1/1
Sacramento 17 14 4.0 3-0 8-9 1/2 2/1
Phoenix 15 16 6.0 3-1 7-12 0/3 1/2
Houston 14 17 7.0 2-1 9-10 2/1 2/1
Minnesota 14 17 7.0 3-0 8-11 2/1 0/3
Sacramento losing Friday at Phoenix and the Storm winning Saturday ensured the Storm will finish no lower than third in the Western Conference. Saturday's win also brought the Storm's magic number to clinch home-court advantage in the first round (either the first or second seed) to one. Winning either of the next two games will keep Los Angeles from being able to pass the Storm with a win in the season finale on Sunday. (Between now and then, the Sparks play only Atlanta at home, so don't count on a loss from them.) Meanwhile, one more L.A. win or Monarchs loss will clinch at least third for the Sparks.
The last bit of intrigue is the race for the fourth and final spot in the playoffs. Houston and Minnesota have faltered, and the latter was eliminated by losing last night at ARCO Arena. Sacramento holds the tiebreaker on late-charging Phoenix and therefore needs only one win to clinch a playoff spot. The Mercury has an outside chance at rallying, but must sweep a season-ending three-game road trip (at Detroit, Minnesota and Indiana) and have the Monarchs lose out. Houston's situation is even more desperate. The Comets need three wins (they host Connecticut and Sacramento and finish at Chicago), three Sacramento losses (vs. Seattle, at Houston, at San Antonio) at least two losses by the Mercury AND a Minnesota loss to make the playoffs.
If three or even all four teams somehow end up tied at 17-17, the Monarchs would win any potential tiebreakers based on their strong head-to-head record against the other teams.
Got all that? We'll be administering a test later.