Commentary

Move over, Minnesota: Phoenix rising

Originally Published: June 16, 2014
By Michelle Smith | espnW.com

Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, and Skylar DigginsGetty ImagesElena Delle Donne? Out indefinitely. Maya Moore? Two straight losses. Skylar Diggins? On a tear.

There's movement at the top of the WNBA power rankings as the Lynx, who have reigned as the league's top team since Week 2, have stumbled to make way for a new No. 1.

The Mercury went to the Target Center on Sunday, built a big lead from the start and came away with their first win over Minnesota since 2011. That earns the Mercury the top spot in this week's rankings, with a hot Atlanta team close on their heels.

The Week 5 power rankings:

1. Phoenix (7-3; last week: No. 2)

The Mercury ended a 14-game losing streak against the Lynx dating back to 2011 (10 regular-season games and four postseason games) to close a five-game road trip with a decisive win in Minneapolis.

2. Atlanta (7-3; No. 3)

Four straight wins and the Dream are making a statement about their title aspirations with wins over Los Angeles, Chicago and Minnesota in the past two weeks. Defense and rebounding are paving the way for Atlanta. On Sunday, the Dream outscored the Mystics in second-chance points 18-0.

3. Minnesota (8-3; last week: No. 1)

The Lynx have hit a speed bump with three losses in four games after a 7-0 start. Back-to-back losses to Atlanta and Phoenix have to have the Lynx wondering if they are indeed the best team in this league, or if this is an early hiccup that will define another run to a championship. Maya Moore's hot start has officially cooled. After averaging more than 30 points a game in the first four outings, Moore is averaging a little more than 13 points a game in June.

4. Indiana (5-4; No. 7)

The Fever have won five of six while they wait for Tamika Catchings to return to the lineup. Will they have to play without Briann January as well? She is trying to work through an ankle injury.

5. Connecticut (6-6; No. 10)

The Sun are finding ways to win at home -- including Saturday's victory over a streaking Indiana team -- but are still 0-4 on the road. So it's a good thing the Sun play four of their next five at Mohegan Sun.

6. Chicago (5-5; No. 4)

After such a great start, things have gotten tougher by the day for the Sky, who have lost four in a row. Already without Sylvia Fowles, now Chicago will play for an indeterminate amount of time without star Elena Delle Donne, who is fighting a recurrence of Lyme disease.

7. Tulsa (4-5; No. 12)

Four straight victories at home -- a franchise-record win streak -- have changed the tone of the Shock's season. Courtney Paris is playing huge inside and Skylar Diggins is an overwhelmed rookie no more. Diggins is averaging 18.4 points per game, scoring more than 20 points in the past four games.

8. Washington (5-6; No. 6)

The Mystics have lost three of their past four games, and it doesn't get any easier. Washington is about to start a four-game road trip that opens with games against Atlanta and Minnesota, two of the league's best.

9. San Antonio (5-6; No. 8)

The Stars put up 101 points on Saturday night against Los Angeles, including 20 points from rookie Kayla McBride. But the Stars should be shoring up their defensive end. San Antonio's opponents shoot a league-high 49.6 percent from the field.

10. Los Angeles (3-6; No. 5)

The Sparks have dropped three straight and are struggling both at home and on the road. Seeing Los Angeles in last place in the Western Conference standings is the shock of the season so far.

11. Seattle (5-8; No. 9)

The Storm survived their stretch of 10 of 13 games on the road, closing it with three wins in five contests. Seattle will be happy to spend some time in the Emerald City; three of the next four are at home.

12. New York (3-8; No. 11)

The Liberty have only one road win and can't find any semblance of consistency on the offensive end. New York still ranks 11th in the league in scoring.



Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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