With the Seattle Storm's (16-12) win over the Tulsa Shock last night, they move into a virtual tie with the Phoenix Mercury (15-11) who are on the road to play the Connecticut Sun tonight.
The Mercury are technically a fraction of a percent ahead of the Storm, but a loss in Connecticut tonight would move the Storm a bit ahead. Given how well the Storm have played against the Mercury at KeyArena over the last two years, moving into second and getting home court advantage would be huge if the two teams have to face each other in the first round as the second and third seeds.
"There is still a lot of season left to play," said Storm guard Tanisha Wright after last night's win. "We just need to take care of ourselves and make a strong playoff push."
Independent of what the Mercury do tonight, the Storm's magic number to make the playoffs now stands at four with six games left in their regular season schedule - a combination of four wins and four Los Angeles Sparks losses would get them back to the playoffs with a chance to defend their title. And the fifth place Sparks' charge for the playoffs is yet another reason why Tulsa's 20th consecutive loss last night was significant.
After losing to at KeyArena last night, the Shock travel south for a game tonight against the Sparks, who sit 1.5 games behind the fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars. Although the Shock played have lost by only two possessions in their last two meetings with the Sparks, including a 71-66 loss in L.A. on August 9, it also seems unlikely that the Shock would suddenly snap their 20 game losing streak on the road in their third game in four days after playing a physical game against the Storm last night that left coach Teresa Edwards upset.
"I thought it was a very aggressive game," said Edwards after the game in which the Storm made a season-high 22 free throws. "I thought the officials let that game be very, very aggressive. The disparity in free throws pisses me off. This is a playoff, championship-contending team and we have to give them the respect for who they are, but we went, played hard and fought. I'm a little upset about (the fouls)."
Needless to say, the Sparks definitely have an opportunity to win again tonight after winning five of their last seven and make up another game on the Silver Stars, who are on the road to play the first place Minnesota Lynx. Tonight is just one more example of why it's quite possible that the Sparks could make the playoffs over the Silver Stars without even having to play that well.