Phoenix Mercury, Washington Mystics – Playoff Bubble

Seven of the eight participants in the upcoming playoffs are known. Only the Phoenix Mercury and Washington Mystics have undecided fates.

The 2016 WNBA regular season will conclude this weekend. By Sunday night all the seeds and the playoff teams will be known. At time of writing, seven teams have clinched a berth in the post-season, three teams have been mathematically eliminated, while both the Phoenix Mercury and the Washington Mystics hang in the balance on the playoff bubble.

Standings as of September 12th (top 8 teams)

  1. Minnesota Lynx, 26-5, clinched top seed
  2. Los Angeles Sparks, 24-8, clinched 2nd seed
  3. New York Liberty, 21-11, clinched 3rd seed
  4. Indiana Fever 16-15
  5. Atlanta Dream 16-15
  6. Chicago Sky 16-15
  7. Seattle Storm 15-17
  8. Phoenix Mercury 14-17
  9. Washington Mystics, 12-19

It certainly has not been the season in Phoenix that many expected during the preseason. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner seemed to be a formidable duo that would make the Mercury major contenders instead of a team on the bubble. The Mercury enter this week 14-17 and sitting in eighth spot as they prepare for a Tuesday-night game against the Los Angeles Sparks.

  • Phoenix @ Los Angeles 10:30pm ET September 13th
  • Seattle @ Phoenix 10pm ET September 15th
  • Phoenix @ San Antonio 4:30pm ET September 18th

Phoenix’s Los Angeles game might look like a difficult one. However, the Sparks have done poorly since returning from the Olympics. Furthermore, Los Angeles can do no better or worse than a 2-seed for the playoffs and that appears to have put them into coast mode. Key players, who were healthy, sat out against the the Storm on Sunday as Seattle posted an 18-point win against back-ups.

At 12-19, Washington certainly have their work cut out for them if they want to catch Phoenix. The Mystics could be eliminated from making the playoffs as early as Tuesday night. Before Phoenix plays L.A., the Mystics will face New York in a game from Madison Square Garden. With a two-game deficit and only three games left in each team’s schedule, the mathematical edge clearly belongs to the Mercury.

  • Washington @ New York 7pm ET September 13th
  • Washington @ Atlanta 7pm ET September 15th
  • Connecticut @ Washington 4pm ET September 18th

The only game that the Mystics will have a clear advantage in is the Connecticut one. However, I think by then Washington will have been eliminated from contention.

Qualifying for the playoffs is one matter. Another is qualifying with a seed that gives you some kind of advantage (how the playoffs work explained).

The high seeds are determined but fourth place is still up for grabs and it provides a very large edge in the WNBA post-season relative to the positions lower (first-round bye, hosting in the second round). Even if the final playoff position is not making for much of a race, the teams ranked 4th through 8th are so close to one another that there are several upcoming games that look huge for both teams involve. It truly is crunch time as the WNBA is about to sort out the clutch teams from the teams that fail when the pressure is on.

Shane Lambert