Here is a glance at the latest standings after a busy night in the association. While the Storm was winning in New York, Phoenix was falling at Detroit. Later in the evening, L.A. lost at home to Atlanta. Where does that leave us with four games left to go in the season for everyone save Sacramento?
The Storm has not yet clinched home-court advantage. As we explained in the last playoff picture, the Storm needed four wins + L.A. losses to do the trick unless one win/loss was against a Western Conference foe. Since then, the Storm has won two games and the Sparks have lost one, but all against East teams. So while the Storm has clinched at worst a tie for the second-best record in the Western Conference, the tiebreaker between the two teams is not yet decided.
If the Storm lost out and L.A. won out, the teams would both be 19-15, have split the season series 2-2 and have identical 12-8 records within the conference. The next tiebreaker is winning percentage against teams ultimately at or above .500, which is hard to predict because we don’t know whether, say, Connecticut might suddenly get hot and finish at .500. However, under this scenario the Storm and Sparks would have identical records against all the teams currently at or above .500 as well as the two teams most likely to get there (Detroit and Washington, the latter the Storm’s next opponent). That would likely leave us at the little-used fifth head-to-head tiebreaker – point differential in head-to-head matchups, which would favor L.A. by virtue of a blowout win over the Storm at the STAPLES Center in June.
Of course, all of this is moot with a Storm win or a Sparks loss.
Remarkably, with the Mercury losing last night, the Storm now controls its own destiny in the race for the top seed in the West. If the Storm wins out, Phoenix would have to lose again (because the two teams play next Thursday at KeyArena), leaving the teams at worst tied at 23-11. The teams would then have tied the season series and the Storm would have a superior record against other West teams, winning the tiebreaker. That’s why the next two games are huge for the Storm, and why you will want to be at the Key for next Thursday’s Fan Appreciation Night. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Mercury, which plays tonight at Indiana on NBA TV (4:00 p.m.).