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2011 WNBA Western Conference Playoff Race: Minnesota Lynx Can Clinch A Playoff Berth With A Seattle Storm Loss Tonight

Another night, another opportunity for the Seattle Storm (13-12) to move up in the Western Conference standings.

While the fourth place Storm are hosting the New York Liberty (15-11), the slumping third place San Antonio Silver Stars (13-11) traveling to the U.S. Airways Center to play the second place Phoenix Mercury (14-10). One way or another, the Storm will gain an advantage with their two conference rivals going head-to-head tonight but a win against the Liberty combined with a Silver Stars loss would nudge the Storm into third place.

However, a Storm loss also has implications for the Western Conference playoff race, as described at SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal yesterday - it would make the first place Minnesota Lynx the first team to secure a playoff berth.

Obviously a win over the Sparks tomorrow would put them in. However, if Seattle loses it would put the Lynx in even if they lost to LA. 

A Storm loss puts them at 13-13 while the Sparks would be at 11-14 with a win over the Lynx. Minnesota can't do worse than 19-15. Seattle and LA have two games remaining against one another, meaning they can't both finish at 20-14 or better. The Lynx own the tiebreak over both teams.

Nevertheless, while there will be focus on the Lynx' playoff berth tonight, a L.A. Sparks (10-14) win would be just as significant - the fifth place Sparks are currently 2.5 games behind the Storm for the fourth and final playoff spot and are looking impressive with the return of superstar forward Candace Parker from injury.

Of course, Storm center Lauren Jackson has also been cleared to play and she will obviously have an impact on this playoff race - tonight's game against the Liberty is far from the most winnable game on the Storm's remaining schedule, but her impact on the interior would be huge against their rugged visitors from New York and would give them a big advantage moving forward.