PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 26: Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm drives the ball against Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury during the WNBA game at US Airways Center on July 26, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

2011 WNBA Playoffs: Seattle Storm Secure Home Court Advantage In First Round

The 2011 WNBA Playoffs will begin on September 15 with the Seattle Storm facing the Phoenix Mercury at 7 p.m. PST on ESPN2. With an 85-70 win tonight, the Storm secured second place in the Western Conference and home court advantage in their first round meeting with the Mercury. Visit WNBA.com to see the full Western Conference semifinals schedule. For more on the Storm, visit our Seattle Storm section. For more on the WNBA in general, visit SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal.

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2011 WNBA Playoffs: Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm Will Re-Introduce Themselves In First Round

The Seattle Storm's 85-70 win over the Phoenix Mercury was obviously an emotional boost as they head toward the playoffs with an opportunity to defend their title, but more importantly it gives them home court advantage against a team who they've had some success beating at home.

"We want to be at home," said Storm guard Katie Smith after scoring a season-high 26 against the Mercury last night. "Our record shows that being at home is big for us. We didn't want to go to their place. It was pretty much a playoff game and this is going to be the atmosphere when we see them again."

The Storm are 14-2 at KeyArena this season with one final home game against the Chicago Sky on Sunday and the Mercury haven't won in Seattle since 2009. Their only win in their last 11 games against the Storm came in Phoenix with center Lauren Jackson and guard Tanisha Wright absent.

Nevertheless, the Mercury do have reasons for hope, beginning with the return of the player who is arguably their MVP in 2011.

"We'll have Penny (Taylor) back so that will really help," said Mercury coach Corey Gaines about forward Penny Taylor, who missed last night with back spasms. "We'll be ready to go"

Perhaps an even more significant factor that was on display last night is the trade of center Kara Braxton to the New York Liberty that moved veteran defender up in the rotation as someone capable of contending with the 6-foot-6 Jackson in the paint. Jackson was held without a field goal until the fourth quarter last night and only finished with four points.

As familiar as these teams are with each other, their playoff opener on September 15 at KeyArena will likely be the first time their current rotations face off at full strength. Although there's plenty of reason for the Storm to go in confident, there's also more uncertainty to this series beyond the surface.

"Phoenix is a great team," Storm coach Brian Agler said. "It's going to be a very competitive series."

The Mercury aren't exactly intimidated by KeyArena either, as one would expect of any competitor.

"They have home court advantage, and I don't know about everyone else, but I enjoy playing here," Mercury forward Candice Dupree said. "The fans are great, but that should give us some motivation to come out and beat them."

Despite the Storm's dominance, Dupree's sentiment about KeyArena isn't that dissimilar from what you hear from players and coaches around the WNBA - the Seattle fan base is among the strongest in the league and, perhaps in some ways, what other cities are still striving to create. But as a team with veterans looking to bring the Mercury franchise its third WNBA championship, they also look forward to toppling the reigning champion.

"You have to beat the defending champions if you want to go anywhere," said Mercury guard Diana Taurasi. "That's just the bottom line in any sport. You have to beat the champions if you want to be champions. It'll probably be the toughest task we have all year."

The most immediate concern for the Storm now is resting up and making sure they're at 100% against a competitive Mercury team that is more than capable of scoring more than the 70 points they put up last night (a season-low) and can run a team out off the floor if they get caught up in trying to match their tempo. Yet rather than making an executive decision about managing minutes, Agler is approaching things more democratically.

"We talked with our team about it and if we feel like getting to 21 (wins) will help us down the road then my vote would be to try to play," Agler said. "I don't know what we'll do with Lauren (Jackson). We want her ready for the playoffs. We want to put ourselves in the best position. That's my philosophy.

"But I let the players sleep on it. When they ask me something and I'm unsure I always tell them that I reserve the right to sleep on it. So I asked them and they said that they, 'reserve the right to sleep on it.' I guess we'll know tomorrow."

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Seattle Storm Vs. Phoenix Mercury: Katie Smith's 26 Points Lead Storm To 85-70 Win, Second Place In Western Conference

Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com noted in his preview of tonight's game that each of the Seattle Storm's nine wins over the Phoenix Mercury since 2009 have been different.

In keeping with that pattern, tonight's 85-70 win at KeyArena was a game full of anomalies, both good and bad.

Storm reserve guard Katie Smith led the Storm with a season-high 26 points, including 5-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Center Lauren Jackson finished with only four points and didn't score until halfway through the fourth quarter, a testament to the Mercury actually playing rather good interior defense throughout the game.

"It was the same game plan as when she was playing early on in the season," said Mercury forward Candice Dupree, referring to the season opener in which Jackson recorded 15 points and seven rebounds. "We were trying to contain Sue (Bird) a little more and Katie. Obviously Katie didn't work so well. She's a great shooter and a great player in the league."

Mercury guard Diana Taurasi's season-high 36 points were the most by a Storm opponent this season, surpassing her own 31 on June 4. But adding to the strange flow of this game, she only scored eight points in the second half after scoring 28 in the first half and 20 in the second quarter alone.

Stopping Taurasi in the second half proved to be the key - nobody else on the league's highest-scoring team really picked up the slack as the Mercury only shot 7-for-29 in the second half.

"We didn't try to do anything differently, I just thought we played a little bit passive with her," said Storm coach Brian Agler of how they responded to Taurasi's hot first half shooting. "We gave her too much space. We changed a few things up at halftime, but nothing that should have bothered her a whole lot. We just gave her a different look. I was disappointed at halftime because I thought we gave her too much space to work."

But what's ultimately most surprising about this game is that the Storm managed to win a 3-point shootout with the Mercury with Jackson being a non-factor on the offensive end for most of the game.

With 13 three-pointers, the Storm tied a franchise record for most in a regulation game. Their 54.2 percent accuracy was also a season high. Meanwhile, the Mercury finished with tied with season-low 70 points after scoring 41 in the firt half. 

And although it's surprising that a team that has steadily had to creep out of the league's 3-point shooting cellar won a game that featured 47 long-range attempts against the league's highest scoring team, it's also a sign of encouragement: they managed to weather a superstar performance from one of the league's best scorers while Smith stepped up after the majority of their starters struggled.

"I decided to not necessarily settle for jumpers as much, but just attack the hole a little bit and get in there and finish," said Smith of her season-high performance. "It's more of a mindset. It's not settling and trying to make them work. Other teams try to make us work on defense by attacking and trying to get us on our heels so we have to do the same thing."

Of course tempering that encouragement is the reality that the chances of the Storm winning another game in quite this fashion is unlikely when they meet the Mercury again in the playoffs, but the unpredictability of these matchups is part of what makes them so exciting.

"It kind of mentally tricks you a little bit because you know every little thing they like to do," Taurasi said about the familiarity between the two teams. "They know what we like to do. Most of these games have come down to the last two or three minutes. We have to find a way to get stops and good offensive possessions at the end."

Most importantly, the win clinched second place in the Western Conference and home court advantage in their first round meeting with the Mercury next week. Yet in addition to clinching second place, home court advantage in the first round of the WNBA playoffs, and winning the regular season series 3-1, the Storm also became only the second team in WNBA history to reach 20 wins for in four consecutive seasons (the Los Angeles Sparks hold the record, making the playoffs from 1998-2004).

A large part of that ability to continue reaching the 20-win plateau - even in seasons where Jackson hasn't been a full health - is the home crowd that cheered them on tonight. The reward for the team this season is an opportunity to use that to their advantage in the first round.

"This crowd and these Seattle fans love women's basketball," Smith said. "They love the players that are here, but they follow everyone. It's an honor to do it front of them because they really appreciate what we do and how hard we do it. It means a lot."

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2011 WNBA Playoffs: Seattle Storm Will Face Phoenix Mercury In First Round On Sept. 15 On ESPN2

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It has pretty much been a given that the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury would end up facing each other in the 2011 WNBA Playoffs since about the moment the Mercury clinched their spot.

Tonight the Mercury made it official with a 91-76 win over a Tulsa Shock team that is approaching 30 losses this season, despite a game-high 22 points from Shock rookie center Liz Cambage.

With the win, the Mercury have assured themselves of finishing no lower than third place in the Western Conference and the full Western Conference semifinals schedule is set. The Storm will begin first round play against the Mercury on Thursday, Sept. 15 on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. PST.

Game 2 will be on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. and Game 3 will take place on Monday, Sept. 19 (if necessary).

All that's left to determine is where those games between the Mercury and Storm will be played, which could be sorted out tomorrow night when the Mercury travel to KeyArena tomorrow for the fourth and final meeting of their regular season series. With so much on the line, the Mercury aren't exactly worried about being tired either.

"I think our energy is going to kind of get us through it, we aren't even going to be thinking about how tired we are," said Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner, who is a strong candidate for her third consecutive WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year award.

So with the matchup certain, the possible outcomes of tomorrow night's game are as follows:

  • If the Storm win tomorrow night, they'll win the regular season series 3-1 over the Mercury and clinch second place in the conference by virtue of holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.
  • If Phoenix defeats Seattle and loses to the Minnesota Lynx (on Sunday), the Storm must beat former Gonzaga Bulldogs star Courtney Vandersloot and the Chicago Sky (Sunday) to finish second.
  • If Phoenix wins its final two games (at Seattle, vs. Minnesota), it will clinch the second seed and home court advantage during the Western Conference Semifinals. 

But the odds are certainly in favor of the Storm here.

In addition to the fact that the Storm have won 9 of the last 10 meetings against the Mercury, the Storm also present the Mercury with a difficult matchup challenge, as described by Seth Pollack of SB Nation Arizona.

The Storm are the best coached team in the WNBA and their defense has always managed to give Phoenix problems. On the other end, their two best players are at the Mercury's weakest defensive positions with point guard Sue Bird and center Lauren Jackson.

However, regardless of the past outcomes, the Storm and Mercury have always made for an exciting matchup making tomorrow night's game (7 p.m. PST, KONG) one worth watching. Mercury guard Diana Taurasi is ready for a chance to at least have home court advantage in the first round.

"We will just treat it like every other game, we will play the same way we have been all year," said Taurasi, who is currently second in the league in scoring averaging 21.24 points per game. "If you have to change things for a big game, than you aren't preparing the right way. So we will go to the airport early and go to Seattle and see what we can do that night."

The other semifinal matchup was also decided with the fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars now set to face the first place Minnesota Lynx in the first round.

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The Lynx and Silver Stars will begin their series on September 16 at 6 p.m. PST on NBA TV. The Lynx won the regular season series 4-0, but to the Silver Stars' credit they lost two of those games by a combined three points without the help of then-injured rookie All-Star forward Danielle Adams. With Adams back in the lineup, the series might not be quite as lopsided as their records might suggest.

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2011 WNBA Playoffs: Western Conference Field Set With San Antonio Silver Stars Eliminating L.A. Sparks

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Behind 37 points from guard Becky Hammon, the San Antonio Silver Stars clinched a playoff spot with an an 82-65 win over the Los Angeles Sparks at the Staples Center tonight.

With the fifth place Sparks now eliminated from playoff contention, the Western Conference field is set but the final positioning will be determined over the course of the next five days.

Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com has already broken down what this means for the Seattle Storm with a simulation that has them almost assured of a first round meeting with the Phoenix Mercury.

So the obvious note here is that the Storm and the Mercury are now locked into second and third per our simulation. There is a scenario where Phoenix could slip to fourth by losing out with the San Antonio Silver Stars winning out, but our model regards this as impossible because the Mercury’s home game against Tulsa is statistically such a sure thing.

The Storm will definitely finish either second or third and has the inside track on second. A win next Friday against Phoenix would lock it up.

Although the Mercury are the Storm's likely opponent, a first round matchup with the Silver Stars would probably be more favorable with the added bonus of home court advantage as a second seed - the Storm won that regular season series 4-1 and have beaten them rather badly on two occasions.

Yet that's looking a bit too far ahead - the second place Storm are only a half game ahead of the third place Mercury with two games remaining on their schedule. The Storm can make it easy on themselves by clinching the second seed with a win over the Mercury at KeyArena on Friday. Roman Augustoviz of the StarTribune has the breakdown of what happens if they fail to win that game.

If Phoenix wins on Thursday and beats Seattle on Friday, the Mercury would have a one-game lead going into Sunday's game with the Lynx. Then a Phoenix win that day or a Seattle loss would clinch second.

If they somehow finish tied in the standings -- and that scenario has to include a Phoenix win in Seattle to even their series at 2-2, the first tiebreaker  -- the Storm will be the second seed because of its better conference record.

That sets up an exciting potential playoff preview between the Mercury and Storm on Friday at 7 p.m. PST on KONG.

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Seattle Storm Vs. Tulsa Shock Final Score: Storm Clinch WNBA Playoff Berth With 78-72 Win

Sue Bird didn't exactly hit a game-winning shot tonight, but her 3-point shot with 37.4 seconds left essentially sealed a win and clinched a WNBA playoff berth for the Seattle Storm tonight against the Tulsa Shock.

Bird led all scorers with 21 points and tied for a team-high five assists as the Storm held on for a 78-72 win in Tulsa.

After being down by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter, the Shock used another strong rebounding effort in the fourth quarter to make a 6-0 run to get within four points with just under two minutes left. Bird's three stole hope from the Shock as it put them down by seven points with under a minute left. From there it was only a matter of time before the Storm got the win.

Storm center Lauren Jackson finished with 20 points and five rebounds, but the Shock's ability to contain her for stretches helped them stay in the game and actually prevented her from having a bigger game. A combination of rotating defenders on Jackson to keep her off her spots and Jackson starting to rush her shots a little helped the Shock hold her to only one field goal in a nine minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters. But once she adjusted and found her comfort zone she scored six in the fourth.

The Shock were led by outstanding shooting from their wings, with Jen Lacy scoring a team-high 18 points on 4-for-4 3-point shooting and Amber Holt adding 17 points, including 3-for-5 3-point shooting. The Shock were without guard Ivory Latta, who was in street clothes tonight after having some of her best point guard performances of the year in their previous five games.

The Storm now head to San Antonio tomorrow night to finish a three-game road trip a half game ahead of the third place Phoenix Mercury.

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2011 WNBA Playoff Race: Candace Parker's Season-High 27 Points Keep Seattle Storm From Clinching Playoff Berth

With the Los Angeles Sparks needing every game they can get in their fight to make the playoffs, star forward Candace Parker turned in yet another strong performance in a 68-62 win over the Seattle Storm at Staples Center last night.

Parker dropped a season-high 27 points on the Storm (17-13) including 3-for-5 3-point shooting and seven rebounds to keep the Sparks (13-17) within 1.5 games of the fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars (14-15). The win also kept both the Storm and Phoenix Mercury (17-12) from clinching a playoff spot. The magic number for the Storm remains at one, with either a win or Sparks loss clinching their playoff spot.

The combination of the Storm's loss and the Mercury's 96-74 win in Tulsa also caused the two to swap spots in the Western Conference standings, with the Storm falling to third place. The battle for second place is particularly important as the two teams figure to matchup in the first round of the playoffs and are jockeying for home court advantage; given how well the Storm have played at KeyArena and particularly how well they've played the Mercury there, finishing the regular season in second would increase their chances of advancing to their second consecutive Western Conference Finals series and defending their title.

The Storm have a good shot at clinching their playoff berth when they travel to Oklahoma to play the 3-26 Tulsa Shock on Friday, but this weekend's back-to-back with the Shock and Silver Stars could go a long way to proving just how well prepared the Storm are to make another playoff run.

As for the Sparks, they definitely needed a win last night more than Storm just to stay in the playoff hunt with only four games left. After playing the Mercury in Phoenix, they get a chance to gain a game on the Silver Stars head-to-head at home before finishing the season with two currently sub-.500 teams. The Silver Stars will have a chance to win the regular season series in that game, which would give them a tiebreaker that could end up being significant between these two teams.

But if Parker finishes the season playing as well as she has against the Storm in the past two games and the Sparks continue showing a renewed commitment to defense after some poor efforts on that end of the ball, they'll be tough to eliminate from playoff contention.

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2011 WNBA Playoff Picture: Minnesota Lynx Clinch Western Conference, Seattle Storm One Game Away From Clinching Playoff Berth

With a thrilling 65-63 victory at KeyArena against the Los Angeles Sparks, the Seattle Storm not only remained a half game ahead of the third place Phoenix Mercury in second place in the Western Conference but also moved within a game of clinching a playoff berth.

The Storm will have an opportunity to clinch that playoff berth on Tuesday evening in Los Angeles, adding drama to an already intense rivalry after an intense game tonight. A win would would also win the season series for the Storm, giving them the tiebreaker with the Sparks if things come to that.  If they don't win on Tuesday, the next Storm win or L.A. loss will guarantee the Storm a playoff spot.

But a loss on Tuesday would put the Sparks in quite a bind.

"We need to win," said Sparks forward Candace Parker after the loss at KeyArena on Sunday night. "If we play like that, I feel like we'll win all the games. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of games left, but I'm still hopeful."

The Sparks remain 1.5 games behind the fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Although people will look at the Sparks' loss to the Tulsa Shock on Friday night as a major setback, they still are not out of it - beating the Indiana Fever on August 18 still stands out as a big win for them and will give them some slack moving forward as four of their five remaining games are at home. 

As close as they played Seattle at KeyArena, Tuesday's game at the Staples Center is quite winnable for them. Then after a game in Phoenix, their final three games are at home, including a head-to-head meeting with the Silver Stars for a chance to gain a game on them directly. Nevertheless, the Sparks' consecutive close losses could end up stinging even more if they miss the playoffs.

The Silver Stars have six games remaining, including their final two of the season against the 3-25 Tulsa Shock and 5-23 Washington Mystics. With Danielle Adams back, it's not inconceivable that they could go on a late-season run to create some space between themselves and the Sparks. But after losing consecutive games to the first place Minnesota Lynx, their trip to the playoffs might not be long or particularly pleasant.

With the Silver Stars' loss to the Lynx on Sunday in San Antonio, the Lynx clinched first place in the Western Conference and are now competing with the Eastern Conference's Indiana Fever - currently only 1.5 games ahead of the second place Connecticut Sun - for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Their magic number currently stands at three.

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2011 WNBA Playoff Race: Seattle Storm Win Tiebreaker With San Antonio Silver Stars

Tonight was a very good night for the Seattle Storm (15-12), who are starting to find some offensive rhythm with center Lauren Jackson back in the lineup.

With their 63-55 win over the fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars (13-13), the third place Storm gave themselves 1.5 games of breathing room which could only increase over the next five days: while the Silver Stars play a pair of games against the first place Minnesota Lynx (21-6), the Storm will the last place Tulsa Shock (1-24) and fifth place Los Angeles Sparks (12-15) at KeyArena.

The Sparks also helped themselves tonight by winning an overtime game with the Washington Mystics' (5-21), whose ineffective late-game execution cost them the game as much as anything that Candace Parker's recent return to action might have. In any event, the Sparks are now 1.5 games behind the Silver Stars with their win and tonight is yet another perfect example of why the Sparks still have a chance to make the playoffs even as they play subpar basketball even with Parker in the lineup - while the Silver Stars are busy traveling to KeyArena and Minnesota, the Sparks get rewarded for a suspect performance against the Mystics with a home game against the Shock.

It's almost just bad luck for San Antonio that Danielle Adams is out for them in the middle of a rough patch while the Sparks get Parker back in the middle of one of the easiest stretches of games the league could possibly offer; it's not even that the Silver Stars are playing that poorly overall, they've just gotten a tough draw with a key player absent and need to do more to beat these teams.

"We competed and we're getting better, but getting better is not necessarily good," said Silver Stars forward Sophia Young. "We have to get there and win a couple games in the next stretch coming up because these games are very important to us."

In more good news for the Seattle fans, the Phoenix Mercury's (15-11) home loss to the New York Liberty means that the Storm are now half a game out of second place in the Western Conference with their next game also against Tulsa on Thursday.

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2011 WNBA Playoff Race: Minnesota Lynx Clinch, Lauren Jackson Makes Immediate Impact For The Seattle Storm

While the Minnesota Lynx clinched a playoff berth with their big 87-68 win over the Los Angeles Sparks tonight, it might not even be the most intriguing news in the Western Conference tonight.

In a Seattle Storm win decided by only one point against the New York Liberty tonight, it's hard to dispute that center Lauren Jackson's return from injury had a significant impact and might continue to have a significant impact on the standings moving forward.

"She got a lot out of her minutes, didn't she? She played well," said Storm coach Brian Agler after the Storm's 63-62 win tonight. "We're a different team, obviously. I've got to give everybody credit for keeping us competitive without her, but we can be much better with her. She was a factor tonight."

And given the Storm's remaining schedule, Jackson's timing was perfect.

The Liberty were one of the toughest remaining matchups for the Storm, who entered the night in fourth place in the Western Conference. But even if they had lost tonight's game, they would have had a good shot at making the playoffs and even moving up in the standings.

"I'm sure as a unit they're 60 percent of what they'll be in three or four more games," said Liberty coach John Whisenant. "They'll be awesome in three or four more games. I just wanted to steal this one before they get that much better. Lauren was amazing."

So this win could be considered a nice bonus for the Storm that could give them a little more breathing room as the 2011 WNBA Playoffs draw near. With the win, the Storm improve to 14-12 and move up to third place in the Western Conference with the San Antonio Silver Stars' 87-81 road loss to the Phoenix Mercury.

Yet while a road loss to a second place team wouldn't normally be a big deal, the Silver Stars' loss tonight was somewhat discouraging for their playoff hopes and perhaps ironically the most significant outcome of the night.

As reported by Odeen Domingo of the Arizona Republic, Mercury star and WNBA leading scorer Diana Taurasi was a game-time scratch tonight due to back spasms; in a way, it was a great opportunity for the slumping Silver Stars to pick up a win. But having lost seven of their last nine, losing to a team missing its starter is not particularly encouraging with one more road game against the Mercury remaining.

"Obviously, Diana is a big part of their team and they won without her tonight, so that says a lot about their team," said Silver Stars forward Sophia Young, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. "But for us, it just says we need to work harder and we can't send them to the free-throw line like that. It's the little things we can and have to do to
win."

Counter to what the final scores suggest, that Silver Stars loss actually makes the beating the fifth place Sparks took in Minnesota look mild: even though the Sparks do have to rack up a number of wins to make the playoffs, their remaining schedule could still offer seven or eight more wins and it would've been a stretch to assume that they would beat the first place Lynx on the road to begin with.

The Sparks are now three games behind the fourth place Silver Stars after tonight's loss, but they're also done with the Lynx for the regular season. In contrast, the Silver Stars have back-to-back games against the Lynx after playing the Storm at KeyArena, which was the scene of one of their worst losses of the season just before the All-Star break.

After those three games, it's not unreasonable to think that the Silver Stars might end up having lost 10 of 12 games. With the Sparks looking considerably better with Candace Parker in the lineup, tonight's blowout notwithstanding, it's not hard to imagine that it's the Silver Stars who are most in danger of falling out of the playoffs.

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Seattle Storm Center Lauren Jackson Will Return From Injury Against The New York Liberty Tonight

Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans tweeted earlier tonight that Seattle Storm center Lauren Jackson will be making her return to the court tonight at KeyArena after being out due to a hip injury for about nine weeks.

However, it remains unclear whether Jackson will start or enter the game off the bench* - although Evans said she will come off the bench, the Seattle Storm have tweeted that Storm coach Brian Agler was unsure about whether start. Agler chatted with Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com earlier this week about the pros and cons of starting her compared to bringing her off the bench.

"That's part of the issue - is it better to get her playing when she's warm right after warmups?" said Agler. "Because it's easier to manage minutes when they don't start. She's going to have limited minutes. What that limit is, we're still gauging. If there's a plan on paper that I can give you, we don't have that, but there are a lot of generalities that we're discussing."

Jackson has been out since the second quarter of the Storm's first game in Tulsa on June 21 where she suffered a hip injury. After an initial evaluation, the word was that she'd be out 8-12 weeks so returning tonight is within that rather wide window of what the Storm expected.

Also as expected, Storm guard Tanisha Wright will be back with the team tonight after missing their previous game in Phoenix for family reasons.

*Update: Evans is now tweeting that Jackson will start tonight.

For more details on Jackson's injury, visit our storystream.

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2011 WNBA Playoff Race: The Seattle Storm's Path To The Postseason

With nine games left in their WNBA regular season schedule, the Seattle Storm (13-12) are currently in fourth place in the Western Conference but only 1.5 games out of second place as teams jockey for position in the 2011 WNBA Playoffs.

However, after a trip to the playoffs was all but certain by mid-season last year, there's a lot more uncertainty around making it this year, beginning with the return of superstar forward Candace Parker to the Los Angeles Sparks this past Tuesday.

With the playoff race just starting to heat up, a brief overview of where the Storm stand and which teams might have the inside track at making the playoffs.

For more on the Storm, visit our Seattle Storm section. For more on the WNBA in general, visit SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal.

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