WNBA playoff race – Key video games and the way Arike Ogunbowale, Diana Taurasi accidents will affect the stretch run

Simply when issues gave the impression to be wanting up for the Phoenix Mercury within the 2022 WNBA playoff race, a curveball was thrown their method Monday: Diana Taurasi will miss the rest of the common season, which wraps up Sunday, with a quad pressure. The WNBA’s all-time main scorer is likely to be out there if Phoenix advances to the postseason, however the Mercury will not replace her standing till then.

The information was the newest blow to a franchise that has been with out Brittney Griner all season, handled the midseason departure of 2012 league MVP Tina Charles and suffered a slew of different accidents and diseases which have made lineup consistency troublesome to come back by.

Now, a squad that was anticipated by some to be a superteam this season can be with out their longtime cornerstone and one of many biggest to ever play the sport for the close to future, the potential salve of a postseason berth regardless of their roller-coaster season in jeopardy.

However Taurasi is not the one star who’ll miss significant time: The Dallas Wings — who clinched a playoff berth Monday — introduced on Tuesday that Arike Ogunbowale will miss the rest of the common season and the Wings’ first-round matchup with an stomach harm.

Taurasi’s harm could have a ripple impact on the general playoff race because the common season winds down — the Mercury are one in all 5 groups nonetheless competing for the ultimate two playoff spots with 5 days to go — whereas Ogunbowale’s absence might affect the Wings’ ceiling as soon as they attain the postseason.

Three-time WNBA champion Phoenix, which reached the Finals final season, is trying to keep its place as one of the crucial profitable WNBA franchises. Although a title appears out of attain in 2022, the Mercury have nonetheless been a fixture within the playoffs for many of Taurasi’s profession, reaching the postseason in all however two seasons since 2007: 2008 and 2012, the latter which Taurasi missed nearly all of with a hip harm.

After Tuesday’s video games, ESPN’s WNBA BPI estimated the Mercury to have a 72.2% likelihood of constructing the postseason — the very best odds of the 5 groups remaining within the playoff hunt. Serving to their prospects is that their ultimate three regular-season video games are all dwelling on the Footprint Middle, the place they’re 10-5 this season.

Taurasi won’t be near her prime anymore and extra of a legal responsibility defensively than Phoenix wish to admit: Phoenix permits 106.0 factors per 100 possessions along with her on the courtroom versus 92.0 along with her off it, good for a team-worst 14-point swing on the defensive finish. Nevertheless it’s troublesome to see the Mercury — who most probably would find yourself dealing with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed within the first spherical in the event that they advance to the playoffs — making an inconceivable run with out Taurasi’s means to go off offensively in massive moments, as she has demonstrated all through her profession and as lately because the 2021 playoffs. That is very true with this Phoenix workforce that has so little margin for error with Skylar Diggins-Smith because the final member standing of their Large Three.

For any likelihood of pulling off the inconceivable, they’d want Diggins-Smith, Shey Peddy, Sophie Cunningham and Diamond DeShields to play some ridiculous basketball — first this week to safe their postseason berth after which within the weeks past — plus dig deep on the defensive finish, the place they’ve struggled a lot of the season; their defensive score this summer season is 103.8, tenth within the league.

Phoenix’s playoff destiny has enormous implications for an additional workforce, too: The Chicago Sky personal the Mercury’s 2023 first-round decide. Sure, the defending champs, and one of many favorites to win all of it this season, might find yourself within the lottery in 2023.

In Dallas, Ogunbowale is the franchise’s star participant, however the Wings have really thrived in her absence: Three of their 5 consecutive wins — together with enormous victories over the Sky and the Las Vegas Aces — got here with out the previous Notre Dame standout on the ground. The Wings even have a -2.6-point differential per 100 possessions in internet score with Ogunbowale on the ground versus on the bench, a far cry from the stats that teammates Allisha Grey (14.3) and newer starters Teaira McCowan (10.5) and Veronica Burton (9.3) boast.

The Wings are most probably to earn the sixth seed within the standings, which might set them up for a first-round matchup in opposition to the No. 3 seed — which the Connecticut Solar have a 93% likelihood of incomes, per ESPN’s BPI.

Notice that following victories from Las Vegas and Connecticut on Tuesday, the Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics are locked in as a 4-5 first-round matchup, with the Storm higher positioned to host as of now (81% per ESPN’s BPI). Seattle owns the head-to-head tiebreaker in that collection (2-1), which might pay dividends because the Mystics end the common season with the simpler schedule (two video games versus the last-place Indiana Fever, in comparison with Seattle’s in opposition to the Minnesota Lynx after which Las Vegas).

Earlier than the common season wraps Sunday, this is what the remainder of the panorama appears to be like like because the postseason approaches, how the BPI sees it taking part in out and which video games to keep watch over that’ll assist determine the groups who’ll earn the ultimate two playoff spots.

Key video games

Wednesday: New York at Dallas; Minnesota at Phoenix

The Lynx had fairly a bout of dangerous luck to start out the season, however issues have lately began to go their method, placing them inside attain of constructing the postseason regardless of occupying the underside two spots within the standings for a protracted stretch of the season. It helps to have Napheesa Collier again, as she performed 21 minutes in her season debut Sunday. Aerial Powers and Rachel Banham are each possible for Wednesday after coping with knee points, Powers’ inflicting her to overlook Sunday’s recreation. The Lynx additionally already personal the tiebreakers over all the opposite 4 groups within the playoff hunt, which might turn out to be useful.

In the meantime, the Mercury are anticipated to have Diggins-Smith again after she missed Saturday’s recreation with a non-COVID sickness, as she isn’t on their most up-to-date harm report. Phoenix went 1-1 in its previous two video games with out Taurasi, however have finished poorly in opposition to the Lynx in 2022, shedding all three of their earlier matchups.

Friday: New York at Atlanta; Dallas at Phoenix

The upcoming pair of Liberty-Dream matchups have the potential to be intense battles, as each groups are nonetheless preventing for playoff berths, and there is a tiebreaker nonetheless up for grabs (at present, the season collection is 1-1). The Dream are coping with a slew of accidents on the worst time — with a number of gamers out for the season and Tiffany Hayes (ankle) and Kristy Wallace (COVID-19 protocols) each sidelined in latest video games. The Dream have fallen off as of late, successful simply 4 video games for the reason that All-Star break and placing them in peril of lacking the postseason regardless of being within the high eight within the standings for a lot of the season.

The Liberty are one other workforce that confirmed promise again in June however have struggled with consistency and will find yourself lacking the postseason for the fourth time in 5 years. Hurting New York most lately was failing to take benefit by struggling back-to-back losses in opposition to Phoenix (with out Taurasi and Diggins-Smith) on Sunday and Dallas (with out Sabally and Ogunbowale) on Tuesday. Whereas Betnijah Laney is lastly again from a knee harm, Natasha Howard has been nursing an ankle sprain for the reason that weekend and is listed as questionable for Wednesday.

Sunday: Atlanta vs. New York; Dallas at Los Angeles

Issues weren’t essentially going swimmingly for the Sparks beforehand, however they’ve nosedived ever since Liz Cambage took a buyout in late July and left the workforce, shedding 5 consecutive video games after her departure and 6 of their previous seven, together with Tuesday’s loss to the Solar. It hasn’t helped that Chiney Ogwumike missed three video games with a face harm earlier than returning Tuesday, whereas Chennedy Carter has successfully been faraway from the rotation in latest video games, what interim head coach Fred Williams known as a “coach’s decision” involving him, the workforce and Carter. Kristi Toliver (calf), who was a late arrival earlier within the season because of the NBA playoffs, additionally hasn’t taken the courtroom in August and has been restricted to only 11 video games this summer season.

After a 97-71 beatdown Tuesday, the Sparks’ playoff possibilities stay extremely dim, sitting at 2.2%, in keeping with ESPN’s BPI.

Extra key stats within the playoff race

Per ESPN’s BPI, these are the most probably first-round matchups within the WNBA playoffs:

  • Storm vs. Mystics: 100%

  • Solar vs. Wings: 91%

  • Sky vs. Mercury: 36%

  • Aces vs. Dream: 31%

Of the 5 groups within the hunt for a playoff berth, what possibilities have they got of securing one of many two remaining playoff spots (per BPI)?

  • Phoenix: 72.2%

  • Atlanta: 64.1%

  • Minnesota: 35.1%

  • New York: 26.4%

  • L.A.: 2.2%