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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