This game is critical for the Storm.
They are fourth in the west, 1 game ahead of San Antonio and 1 1/2 games in front of Phoenix. It is too close to lose games now. To top it off Houston is only a game ahead of Seattle. LA has a nice lead, but, essentially the west offers a margin of 3.5 games between 2nd place and 5th place. The Storm need to make their move now.
Here is a look at the schedules for Houston, Seattle, San Antonio and Phoenix for the rest of July. Whoever makes a push here will get the seat.
6th Place: Phoenix Mercury
They are as up and down as the Storm at the moment. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have wins over New York (2), Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago, of which only the Detroit win looks at all important. They have losses to LA, Connecticut, Washington and Indiana. Of those only Washington is indicative since I expect them to lose the others. They have 7 games remaining in July. I expect them to beat Washington (though they lost to them at home, and their 3-8 road record against the Mystics 8-2 home record makes that a weak prediction), Charlotte and San Antonio (their home record is terrible). Indiana should easily shut them down in Conseco. They have to play Houston twice, once in Phoenix and once on the road. This should be a split...Houston is very strong at home. Seattle MUST win their game in Phoenix on the 25th. Should this pattern play out...Phoenix would be 13-13 at the end of the month.
5th Place: San Antonio
San Antonio is a little odd this year. They are the only team in the leage with a winning road record (7-6) and a losing home record (3-5). The have had a streaky last 10 games...they lost games to Seattle, LA and Detroit (all make sense). They followed this with wins over New York, Chicago, LA and Houston (2 big surprises), then lost to Minnesota, Charlotte and Detroit (2 big surprises again). They have six games remaining in July. I am not sure why, but they have beat Houston twice already this year, home and away. I don't think Sheryl Swoopes will let the Silver Stars beat them again even in San Antonio, so they should lose that game even with Thompson still out. They haven't played Washington since preseason, but I predict a win in that home game. Both Connecticut games, LA and Phoenix should be losses. That leaves them at 11-16 at the end of the month.
4th Place: Seattle Storm
Who are these ladies? They are 5-5 over the last ten. They lost to Sacramento, Phoenix and Houston in games they should have won, only defeating San Antonio, whom they routed. They seemed to be out of their up and down period and prepared to close out games with wins over Sacramento, LA and Minnesota but their momentum was interrupted by a week off, a loss to Indiana, and the All Star break. They handily beat New York and then lost to Connecticut by deciding to only play one half of basketball against the 2 time Eastern Conference champions. They need to find the momentum of early July and carry it through to close the month. They have 7 games to close the month, with no more than 2 days off between games (oh LJ and her shins) and actually that only happens once...they have a tortuous road trip ahead with games every other day. They play the WNBA champions at noon today...they should win, they have played the Monarchs well the past few years in the key, and they always seem to step up against them. They then head out on the road to play Charlotte, New York, Washington and Phoenix. I predict a loss to Washington with the rest wins. They close out the month at home with games agains Detroit and LA. I think that they lose both. This would put them at 15-13 at the end of the month. They need to prove me wrong and take a game from someone here. August is not so tough for them if they can stay healthy, so now is the time for the push.
3rd Place: Houston Comets
Houson is having a weird season as well...like Seattle and Phoenix, they are 5-5 over the last ten games. They had wins over Charlotte, Seattle, Washington, Sacramento, and Chicago, all of which they should have won. They had losses to Connecticut, LA, San Antonio, Detroit and Indiana. They should not have lost to San Antonio or their home game to Detroit. They have 5 games left in July. They have a chance to get revenge over San Antonio, with games against Minnesota, LA and a home and away against Phoenix. They handily beat the Lynx in Houston last time, so I give them a win there. LA has owned the Comets this year. I already predicted a split with Phoenix. That leave Houston at 16-14 by the end of the month. If the loss of Thompson hurts them more...they could fall to 4th in July. Their August is brutal with only two games against sub 500 teams. They will need to fight tooth and nail to maintain a playoff berth this season with both Phoenix and San Antonio hungry to displace them. Change those two wins to losses and Houston could find themselves out of the post season.