OK, with eight games remaining in the regular season, the Storm isn’t exactly uttering the word “playoffs.” But after Phoenix became the first WNBA team to clinch on Sunday, due to Minnesota’s freefall, Storm fans started to wonder when their team could earn a berth.
Well, four wins is the outright number to guarantee the organization’s sixth consecutive berth. But the Storm’s mathematicians dug deeper than that and figured the actual “magic number” is two, since the Storm owns a host of tiebreakers.
If the regular season ended today, Seattle would play — surprise — Los Angeles. The Sparks (13-13) knocked the Storm (15-11) out of the postseason in the opening round last year and probably believes Seattle only won its 2004 title because they didn’t have to play LA for the conference championship.
So, Seattle’s true goal should be winning to remain one of the top two teams in the West, thus getting homecourt advantage for the opening round of the postseason. Why? Because the Sparks conveniently play six of their final eight games at home and are already on a five-game win streak to leap from nowhere to third in the conference.
Of course this advantage was known before the season started. But now that POW Candace Parker, who birthed her first child in May, is back to form and LA is doing what expected, it’s a little shady.
“I think they had time to talk to the league about some of the issues they were going to have early in the season and it sort of played that way,” said Storm coach Brian Agler of LA’s possible pitch prior to the WNBA setting the schedule during the offseason. “It is what it is. You can’t dwell on it; we’ve got to worry about ourselves.
“A lot has to do with the dates that your arena is available. I can’t remember any flagrant type of issues that we had to address early in the year [in the past]. Last year we had Sue [Bird] and Lauren [Jackson] coming in late, but we also had more home games early than this year. This year I was sort of concerned about the amount of away games we had early in the year. But we’re playing well.”
The Storm’s schedule is even, playing four matchups on the road and four at home to close the regular season. In the opening round of the playoffs, the dates will either be Sept, 16, 18, and, if necessary, 20. Or Sept. 17, 19, and, if necessary, 21. The conference finals are Sept. 23-26 and the WNBA Finals are slated for Sept. 29-Oct. 9.