Believe it or not, we are now less than three weeks away from the conclusion of the WNBA regular season. With things beginning to shake out – well, maybe not in the East – it’s time to start looking at the playoff picture. Check out WNBA.com for a more detailed breakdown, but as of today here’s how they stand in the Western Conference.
Team W L GB 1. Phoenix 18 9 - 2. Seattle 15 11 2.5 3. Los Angeles 13 13 4.5 4. San Antonio 11 16 7.0 5. Minnesota 11 16 7.0 6. Sacramento 9 18 9.0
On Sunday, the Mercury became the first WNBA team to clinch a playoff berth, and the Storm isn’t far behind. As of today, according to my math and as checked out by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Storm’s magic number to clinch stands at just two.
Why two? First, because Minnesota and San Antonio play each other, one of them has to end up with 17 losses. Sacramento already has more than 17 losses, so if the Storm wins 17 games, the worst that could happen would be a tie for the fourth spot in the West. The Storm holds the tie-breaker against San Antonio (at worst, the two teams would split the season series and the Storm has a superior Western Conference record) and Minnesota (having won the first three games of the series) and split with Los Angeles, so there is apparently no multi-team tie that would leave Seattle out of the playoffs with 17 wins.
Usually, a magic number is explained as a combination of wins and opponent losses, but that’s a little trickier here because both San Antonio and Minnesota are involved. Basically, the magic number against each of those teams is two, so the Storm could clinch by winning one game and having both the Silver Stars and the Lynx lose (at least in advance of their meeting on Sept. 1).
If the playoffs started today – and they don’t – the Storm would host Los Angeles in the first round for the second straight year and the third meeting in the last four postseasons. However, the situation remains in flux in terms of seeding. At this point, the most important thing for the Storm is simply getting as many wins as possible, as Head Coach Brian Agler has emphasized.