Musical Chairs . . . who will get a seat and who will be left standing?
The Eastern Conference playoff race reminds us of that old children's game. Three chairs remaining and 5 teams still circling -- each one trying to position themselves to grab one of the seats when the
Indy, as our readers already know, has locked up first place in the Conference. And the Liberty, with a record of 12-20, have been mathematically eliminated.
But everyone else? They're all still in the mix! Has there ever been a more anxiety-ridden final week of the WNBA season -- for so many teams -- than this one? The BasketCases may not be stat-geeks, but we sure can't remember a playoff race this tight, this close to the end!
Here's a little more about how the race looks as of today . . . The Atlanta Dream are currently in second place, with a record of 17-15. One more win should lock up a playoff spot for them, though which spot is still up in the air. Meanwhile the Detroit Shock are alone in third place, with a record of 16-15, and close behind are the Sky, the Mystics, and the Sun, each with a record of 15-17. With so many teams so bunched together, the possibility that some of them will wind up in a tie when the season ends on Sunday is very likely. In fact, it's quite possible that Atlanta and Detroit could snag the second and third spots, leaving only one chair left and three teams -- Chicago, Washington, and Connecticut -- fighting over a single playoff seat.
So what would happen if those three teams are all tied up on Sunday night? We've already been asked about how the tie-breakers work, and we've responded in the comments to the post immediately below this one. For convenience, here's a recap:
If teams are tied when the season ends, the first tie-breaker is their head-to-head record. In that case, the Mystics and the Sky both hold the tie-break over the Sun, having each beaten Connecticut 2 out of the 3 games they've played this season. So bye-bye Sun. The next tie-break is "better winning percentage" against Eastern Conference teams. But right now, the Sky and Mystics have the same 9-11 in-conference record. And since each team's remaining two games are only against Eastern Conference opponents, Washington and Chicago can't wind up tied without having identical in-conference records. (Are you still with us?)
This means we'd have to move on to the next tie-break, which is "better winning percentage against all teams with .500 or better record at the end of season." So now things are really getting interesting. In fact, the results of this tie-break can't be known for certain until the regular season is over. However, there are some things we do know now:
1. Indy, Atlanta, Phoenix and Seattle are already guaranteed to finish at or above .500. The Mystics' record against those teams is 3-8, with one game left to play (against the Dream). The Sky's record is 5-5, also with one game left to play (against Indy).
2. Detroit, as noted above, is currently at 16-15. The Mystics are 2-1 against Detroit, while the Sky are 0-3 with one game left to play against the Shock.
3. Although LA could finish at or above .500, this would be irrelevant to a tie-break between the Mystics and the Sky, as they have the same (1-1) record against the Sparks. The Sun could also finish at .500, equally irrelevant to a tie-break scenario between the Mystics and the Sky, as they have identical records against Connecticut.
Assuming that the Mystics and the Sky win out (tying at 17-17), and assuming that Detroit remains at least at .500 (which helps the Mystics for these purposes), and not counting the irrelevant records against LA and the Sun, the Sky would have a 7-8 record against Indy, Atlanta, Detroit, Phoenix, and Seattle, while the Mystics would be at 6-9. Unfortunately for the Mystics, that tie-break would put Chicago in the playoffs when the music ends and leave the Mystics standing by without a chair.
We caution that this is how things look today. Much can (and, we hope, will) change before Sunday night.
By the way, if you're feeling a little dizzy right now -- after reading this -- like you're running around in circles . . . well, you're not alone!
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Change of Venue . . . the Mystics officially announced yesterday what's been known for some time and in fact already commented on in this blog: that the Verizon Center will not be available during the first round of the playoffs ("Walking With Dinosaurs" is in town). So any games hosted by the Mystics during that round would be held at Maryland's Comcast Center.
While it's unfortunate -- for fans and the team -- that the game(s) would not be played on the Mystics' true home court, the good news is that Comcast Center is a beautiful, professional arena. And we have to believe it would be inspiring for both Lang and Marissa to have a little "homecoming" of sorts, playing again in an arena where their jerseys are hanging from the rafters. (Of course, for the Dukies' sake, maybe it would be best if they rolled up the National Championship banner . . . just for the day. LOL!)