Commentary

Lynx still No. 1, but East teams climb

Originally Published: June 2, 2014
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW.com

Bria HartleyNed Dishman/NBAE/Getty ImagesBria Hartley's Mystics (four spots) and the Fever (five spots) made the biggest moves.

The Lynx appear to be in cruise control already, while the Shock are looking for a little stretch of home cooking to help them get off the schneid. Those are our first and last teams in the Week 3 WNBA power rankings, the same as a week ago. In between, though, there were some big moves. (We're looking at you, Washington and Indiana.)

As June gets underway and WNBA teams really start to jell, things will get interesting. Expect more movement. But will someone strongly challenge the defending champion Lynx? Well, they play five of their next six games on the road, so we'll see.

1. Minnesota Lynx (7-0; last week: No. 1)

The Lynx are used to the view from the top by now, and no one will be surprised if that's where they stay in 2014. After their Memorial Day win over Chicago, the Lynx beat San Antonio twice and shot 50 percent or better from the field in both games. Seimone Augustus had a season-high 25 points in Sunday's win over the Stars.

2. Chicago Sky (5-1; No. 2)

The Sky are off to a great start. OK, we have to mention they've played only one road game this season, which they won at New York, and one game against a Western Conference team, which they lost against Minnesota. Still, led by Elena Delle Donne and Jessica Breland, the Sky have played very well on both ends of the court.

3. Phoenix Mercury (3-1; No. 3)

The Mercury played just once last week, as they added to Tulsa's misery with a 100-78 victory. That game continued what seems to be a theme so far for Phoenix: how well spread out the offense is. It included 15 points off the bench from Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, a guard from Latvia who spent two seasons with Connecticut (2009-10) before returning to the WNBA this season with Phoenix.

4. Washington Mystics (3-2; No. 8)

You can rise (and fall) quickly early on in the power rankings, and the Mystics are a prime example. They were last in the opening week, jumped four spots last week and went up another four this week. That's thanks to victories over New York and Los Angeles, the latter a three-overtime marathon Sunday. Bria Hartley had the best game yet of her rookie season with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists.

5. Los Angeles Sparks (2-2; No. 4)

Maybe we have the Sparks too high here, especially after they shot 33 percent from the field in their loss at Washington. But if the on-the-court chemistry comes together for Los Angeles, things should still be OK. The Sparks are without guard Kristi Toliver, who is playing for the Slovak Republic in qualifying for next year's EuroBasket tournament. (Which is a whole other story itself.)

6. Indiana Fever (3-3; No. 11)

After starting with three consecutive losses, Indiana has won three games in a row. Last week, the Fever had victories at home against Connecticut and New York. Guard Briann January had 20 points in both games, providing a big lift for a Fever team still awaiting the return of injured Tamika Catchings. Indiana won despite being significantly outrebounded in both games.

7. Atlanta Dream (3-3; No. 5)

It's a little hard to know what to make of the Dream so far. Last week, they beat Seattle at home but then lost on the road to Connecticut. If this is the best team in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta hasn't truly looked like it so far. The Sun held Angel McCoughtry to seven points on 2-of-14 shooting, and the Dream's defense wasn't good enough to overcome that.

8. San Antonio Stars (3-4; No. 6)

Let's face it, playing Minnesota twice easily can make it look like you had a bad week. The best news of the week for the Stars was rookie Kayla McBride having her first big-time game, with 30 points and the winning 3-pointer against Tulsa. McBride had nine points in both subsequent games against the Lynx.

9. Connecticut Sun (2-5; No. 9)

After losses at Indiana and Chicago, the Sun finished the week well with a home victory against Atlanta. Renee Montgomery had her best game this season with 18 points, which perhaps will mean more playing time for the veteran guard. Sun coach Anne Donovan has been a bit testy about questions in regard to Montgomery backing up Alex Bentley.

10. New York Liberty (2-4; No. 7)

This isn't the start that coach Bill Laimbeer was hoping to have in his second season with New York. Last week, the Liberty beat Seattle at home, then lost on the road to Washington and Indiana. New York has the second-worst offensive production so far (behind Seattle) but has been pretty good defensively. The bottom line is the Liberty need more scoring.

11. Seattle Storm (2-5; No. 10)

Speaking of needing points ... the Storm are last in the league, averaging 65.7 per game. Of course, the schedule has been terrible for Seattle, which has played just two of its first seven games at home. And the Storm play five of their next six on the road, too. Plus, the home game in that stretch is against the Lynx. Yikes.

12. Tulsa Shock (0-5; No. 12)

Not a huge mystery why the Shock are still winless. They are allowing a league-worst 83.6 points per game, and the only offense that could get away with that and still win is Minnesota's. Yet the Shock are actually not far at all from being 4-1, and way higher in the power rankings. They have four losses by four points or fewer and have played just one home game. With their next four in a row at home, look for the Shock to get in the win column.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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