The 2019 WNBA regular season is officially in its home stretch, with less than a dozen games remaining for teams around the league.
With the WNBA Playoffs set to tip off in the middle of September, that means the race to the postseason is starting to heat up for all 12 WNBA squads.
Such is the case for the Minnesota Lynx, who are looking to return to the playoffs for ninth consecutive season after falling to the Los Angeles Sparks in the opening round of the postseason in 2018.
Entering Wednesday, Minnesota sits in a spot in the neck-and-neck league standings where it has the ability to continue to make a push towards one of the top five seeds in the playoffs, making this final stretch even more important for the Lynx.
Following a road victory over the New York Liberty on Tuesday night in the Big Apple, Minnesota is 13-12 overall while holding onto the No. 7 seed in the standings.
The Lynx, however, are just 4.5 games back of the Washington Mystics and the top spot in the WNBA, while trailing the Seattle Storm and the No. 6 seed by one game and trailing the Chicago Sky at No. 5 by 1.5 games.
If the season ended on Wednesday, which it obviously doesn’t, the Lynx would travel to face the Storm in the first round of the postseason. The matchup, which would feature the last two WNBA Champions, would be a single-elimination contest in Seattle.
With a total of 34 games in a regular season slate, Minnesota has just nine games left to try and make a jump before the playoffs begin. Five of those games will come at home in Minneapolis, while four of those contests will occur on the road.
With less than a dozen games remaining in the regular season schedule, let’s take a look at how the playoff picture is shaping up around the league and who could make some moves ahead of the postseason.
No. 1 seed: Washington Mystics (17-7 overall, 0 GB)
The Mystics have been one of the top offensive squads in the WNBA throughout a majority of the regular season, compiling an offensive rating of 111.5, which ranks first in the league.
Washington comes into Wednesday 8-2 in the last 10 games, having won three in a row.
Overall, the Mystics have been one of the more consistent teams throughout the regular season, especially on the offensive side of the floor, and that has in return resulted in them remaining atop the league standings.
No. 2 seed: Connecticut Sun (16-8 overall, 1 GB)
As a team that currently sits right at the top of the WNBA standings, Connecticut has hit a bit of a bump in the road following the All-Star Break and has resulted in it giving up the No. 1 overall seed with 11 games left to play.
The Sun enter the middle of the week just one game back of the Mystics and the top seed, holding a record of 7-3 in the last 10 contests but have dropped two straight.
With the top of the standings closer than ever, it will be interesting to see if Connecticut continues to rise or starts to fall as the postseason inches closer.
No. 3 seed: Las Vegas Aces (17-9 overall, 1 GB)
Viewed as one of the favorites in the league to reach the WNBA Finals this season after the offseason acquisition of Liz Cambage this offseason, the Aces have been a really entertaining team to watch so far in 2019.
While sitting somewhat in the middle of the pack as an offensive team, Las Vegas is one of the best defensive squads in the WNBA, recording a league-best 91.9 defensive rating through 25 games.
The Aces are a team to watch in the final stretch of the regular season and if they are able to stay hot, having won two straight, to take over the No. 1 overall seed before the playoffs start. They will be a scary team to face in the postseason.
No. 4 seed: Los Angeles Sparks (15-8 overall, 1.5 GB)
After sitting as a middle-of-the-pack team for a majority of the season, the Sparks have become one of the hottest teams in the WNBA following the All-Star Break.
A big reason for that is they are finally healthy, with the return of All-Star Candace Parker to the starting lineup. Over the last 10 games, Los Angeles is 8-2 and has won five in a row to jump up to the No. 4 seed.
Even with a somewhat bumpy opening half of the regular season, the Sparks are still a dangerous team when it comes to having the ability to make a run in the playoffs. They look to be getting hot at just the right time.
No. 5 seed: Chicago Sky (14-10 overall, 3 GB)
Under the helm of first-year head coach James Wade this season, who spent the last few years as an assistant coach with the Lynx, Chicago has been one of the more surprising teams that have made a rise in 2019.
The big key for the Sky this year has been their ability to push the pace offensively and run the floor against their opponents. Chicago ranks first in the league in pace (99.1), resulting in an offensive rating of 99.1 (third-best in the WNBA).
Over the last 10 games, the Sky are 7-3 to sit just three games back of the No. 1 seed. As the standings appear right now, they would host the eighth-seeded Mercury in an opening round matchup, which would be good news for Chicago since it is 9-3 at home this season.
No. 6 seed: Seattle Storm (14-11 overall, 3.5 GB)
Entering the year with dealing with season-ending injuries to All-Stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, it has been interesting to see how Seattle would respond after coming off of a WNBA championship in 2018.
While emerging as one of the top defensive squads in the league, ranking second in defensive rating with a rating of 94.8, the Storm have been led by former Lynx forward Natasha Howard and guard Jewell Loyd this season in the absences of Stewart and Bird.
Jordin Canada has also filled in nicely for Bird, appearing to be one of the top young talents in the WNBA for at least the next few years.
Seattle is still a dangerous team, even without Stewart and Bird, so it will be interesting to see if it will be able to continue to rise in the standings and what kind of noise it can make in the playoffs.
No. 7 seed: Minnesota Lynx (13-12 overall, 4.5 GB)
The Lynx have had an up-and-down season really all summer long. They have been able to put together some really consistent stretches, while also flipping the script and struggling mightily at other points in the year.
While finally getting a majority of its roster back from injuries after dealing with a handful of player injuries throughout the season, Minnesota could continue to be a team to watch to make a late rise in the league standings before playoffs commence.
As mentioned earlier, the Lynx are just 1.5 games back from making a jump to as high as the No. 5 seed in the WNBA. They are also just one game ahed of Phoenix and the No. 8 seed, but they hope they won’t have to worry about dropping in the postseason picture.
Minnesota has some work to do in order to be able to host a playoff game in the first round at Target Center, but don’t rule out the Lynx with nine games left on their schedule. It is an odd year, after all.
No. 8 seed: Phoenix Mercury (11-12 overall, 5.5 GB)
Whenever you have a frontcourt that consists of Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner, mixed with the veteran talent of Diana Taurasi in the backcourt, you’re likely going to field a playoff-caliber team consistently.
The Mercury have been able to continue to do that over the past few seasons, and such is the case once again this summer.
It will be interesting, however, to see how Phoenix responds to not having Griner for the next few games while she is away after being suspended by three games by the WNBA for an altercation on the court against Chicago last week.
Bonner will have to step up and fill in while Griner is away, and it will be more important for Taurasi to carry the backcourt until the Mercury All-Star center returns to the floor. A healthy Phoenix team could turn into a dark horse in the postseason if it were to travel to Chicago in the opening round.
On the outside looking in: No. 9, Indiana Fever (9-16 overall, 8.5 GB); No. 10, New York Liberty (8-16 overall, 9 GB); No. 11, Dallas Wings (7-17 overall, 10 GB); No. 12, Atlanta Dream (5-20 overall, 12.5 GB).
The race to the postseason is starting to heat up, and it’s safe to assume that the playoff picture as it appears right now will change multiple times as the regular season schedule continues to wind down.