The storm looks strong as the final weeks of the season approach

The dash race to the WNBA Championship begins in earnest to storm.

Seattle, third within the league standings 15-8 and 1½ off the highest, play 13 video games over the past 5 weeks of the common season.

It is necessary to do not forget that the WNBA has revamped the Closing Match format. League eliminations, singles elimination video games, and re-seeding have been eradicated in favor of an arc-style construction by which the highest eight groups take part in three rounds utilizing the most effective 3-5-5 format.

Within the first spherical, the upper seeded will host Matches 1 and a pair of and the decrease seeded will host Recreation 3 if vital.

The semi-finals and WNBA Finals will comply with a 2-2-1 format with the highest seeders internet hosting Video games 1, 2 and 5 if required.

“Personally, I do not comply with the association very intently,” guard Sue Chook stated. “I all the time have an thought of ​​the place we’re, however I do not actually chase. If we’re fourth, I am not attempting to chase third. … I do not give it some thought, however it begins to attain extra.”

If the season ends in the present day, No. 3 seed Seattle will host No. 6 seed Atlanta in a semi-arc that would come with second seed Las Vegas and fourth seed Los Angeles.

Seattle’s rating among the many high two within the league is not as necessary this yr because it was in 2018 and 2020 when Seattle conceded twice en path to successful WNBA titles.

Nevertheless, for the reason that begin of the season, coach Noel Quinn has burdened the significance of growing concord throughout the common season and gaining momentum forward of the playoffs.

Quinn did not panic when the storm initially faltered 5-5, which was partly chargeable for the COVID-19-related absences. Since then, Seattle has the most effective league file 10-3.

“We’re proper the place we wish to be,” goalkeeper Jeel Lloyd stated after Thursday’s 106-69 win over Los Angeles. “Clearly there are issues we wish to work on and enhance on. … We’re getting into the precise route. We really feel assured about that. He was excited. The starvation and focus is to enhance daily and work on our targets to win the championship.”

The Storm hopes to keep away from a repeat of final yr when it topped the league standings at 16-5 heading into a protracted break, which included the WNBA All-Star Recreation, the Tokyo Olympics, and the inaugural WNBA Cup title match.

Seattle faltered 5-6, slipping to fourth and exiting the playoffs after a shock additional time loss within the second spherical with out celebrity Brianna Stewart, who has missed the final three video games, together with the playoffs, as a result of her left Achilles tendon. an infection.

“No excuses,” Quinn stated, “however there have been numerous issues that occurred that have been related to bodily and psychological exhaustion.” “We have been taking part in rather well till that break and we could not discover our concord on the finish of the season and clearly Stewie was injured.

“Probably the most I acquired from final season was not desirous to tire the learners out. Thus far, we’ve performed job of not taking part in them for greater than 35 minutes.”

Stuart and Lloyd rank 20The tenth and 21Road within the WNBA averaging 30.4 and 30.2 minutes, respectively.

“After the All-Star Recreation, you positively really feel the urgency when issues begin to decide up,” Stewart stated. “You hate to say that video games imply extra now, however in so some ways it does as a result of issues are going downhill.

“We play good basketball and we wish to not solely stick with it, however preserve getting higher.”

This is a take a look at the post-season WNBA awards that Storm gamers are competing for with a concentrate on how issues might change.

Participant of the Yr: For the second yr in a row, Stewart will probably be ready to win a second WNBA MVP. The Storm star leads the league in goalscoring (21.0 factors per sport) and her superior stats are higher than 2018 when she gained the award. Stewart’s primary competitors comes from a pair of Las Vegas Aces stars, A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum, former Washington Husky frontrunners. Las Angeles’ Nika Ogomec and Dallas’s Eric Ogunboali should be thought of if they’ll lead their crew to a powerful end.

Defensive Participant of the Yr: Stewart and Ezi Magbegor are the centerpiece of Storm’s protection that permits for the second-lowest variety of factors within the WNBA (76.2 per sport). Stewart is second within the league with 1.9 steals per sport and seventh in rebounds (7.1) whereas Magbegor averages 2.5 and 6.6 rebounds.

Sixth participant of the yrConnecticut Solar attacker Briona Jones is the favourite as she is a pillar within the championship competitors and the one reserve to vote for the 2022 WNBA All-Star Recreation. Nevertheless, regulate Charles. They have been dominant within the earlier two video games off the bench (15.5 DPI and 5.5 RPG) and the persistence of that dominance over the ultimate weeks of the season makes them a favourite for the Black Horses.

Most improved participant: In most years, Magbegor could be a powerful candidate given her common rating of 11.7 is a five-point enchancment over final yr. However Las Vegas guard Jackie Younger, who made his WNBA All-Star debut on Sunday, is a hypothetical lockout.

Normal coach: Tanesha Wright is the primary chief on condition that the Atlanta Dream (10-12) has already racked up extra wins since 2018 and is making ready to face a four-year watershed drought. Additionally taking part within the race are James Wade of Chicago, Becky Hammon of Las Vegas and Quinn.