September 7, 2020
Playoff Picture: What the Seattle Storm are still competing for
Sunday's win over Minnesota was important in the playoff picture, but Seattle's week ahead will determine their final standing.
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
The Storm needed to take care of business against the Lynx on Sunday night. A comfortable victory would have also been nice after a close call and physical game against the Sparks on Friday. Seattle may have entered the game on a four-game winning streak but not all of those wins came easy.
That’s what made Seattle’s victory over Minnesota great on Sunday. The Storm had the chance to assert themselves for four quarters, forcing 26 turnovers, swinging the ball for the open shooter, and things like that. Winning by double digits was just a bonus.
Most of all, the Storm secured the head-to-head tiebreaker against another playoff team. Here’s how Seattle now stacks up against the other postseason teams:
Las Vegas Aces: Seattle is up by 1.5 games, but trails the season series 0-1. Their September 13 meeting is crucial because if the Storm can even the season series, they would own the tiebreaker over the Aces by virtue of their record versus teams with a .500 or better record.
Of course, the tiebreaker only matters if the two teams are tied in the standings at the end of the season. Seattle would have to lose both their next two games to Dallas and Phoenix while Las Vegas sweeps Indiana, Minnesota, and Los Angeles. I suppose that scenario is possible but unlikely. Either way, next Sunday is important for both teams.
Los Angeles Sparks: Seattle swept the season series and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. While Los Angeles is just two games back of Seattle, this means the Sparks would need to win out and the Storm to lose out. However, the Aces would own the tiebreaker over the Sparks even if they split the season series. The number-one seed might be a tad out of their reach, but the Sparks should finish the season strong.
Minnesota Lynx: The Storm own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lynx after Sunday’s victory. Minnesota may be three games back with as many games remaining, but might as well be four back because of the tiebreaker. It feels safe to say the Lynx are no longer a threat for the No.1 seed.
All-in-all, the Lynx are a combined 4-5 against playoff teams this season. However, they are 1-4 combined against the Sparks, Storm, and Aces this season with a game in-hand against Las Vegas. The Lynx are a good team but have not shown to be as serious of contenders as some of the other playoff teams.
(It should be noted Sylvia Fowles has been out with injury for much of the season.)
Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky: Seattle has swept the season series against both teams. The Mercury are four games back while the Sky are 5.5 games back. Chicago has two games remaining, both against non-playoff teams, while the only playoff team Phoenix faces the rest of the regular season is Seattle.
However, that game next Friday won’t have many implications with the standings. Chicago only has two games left on the schedule while Phoenix has three. The Sky would need a lot of help to jump from No.6 to No.5.
As for the Storm, they’ll face Dallas on September 9 and Phoenix on September 11. Seattle will want to resist the urge to look over either matchup for their contest next Sunday against the Aces. The Las Vegas game is huge for both teams, but the Storm could possibly clinch the No.1 seed with two wins and an Aces loss to the Sparks.
Sunday’s win was an important one for the playoff picture and also sets the table for the week ahead. The Storm are now off until Wednesday and go in with the confidence of a big win. However, they have to build on that victory and come out unprepared to take care of business against the Wings.
Seattle has done well for themselves this season, but there is still work to be done.