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.