The big news on Friday was that with the Mystics' loss to the Fever 66-53, without the services of Katie Douglas in addition to Briann January and Shavonte Zellous, the team won the right to the most draft balls for Wednesday's draft lottery, where owner Ted Leonsis hopes to get a new fresh foundational piece for his WNBA team, like Alex Ovechkin for the Capitals and John Wall for the Wizards. To be fair to the Mystics, Michelle Snow, Noelle Quinn, and their star, Crystal Langhorne all sat out due to injury.
Either way, no teams in the league have much to play for in their last games of the season materially at least. The playoff teams are already trying to figure out what to do next week in the first round, and the lottery teams, whose ping pong ball counts are now determined now look to win their last games of the season to give their fans something to look forward to next season, and three of the four teams will have a touted bona-fide star...
But what can teams gain or lose? That mostly comes from a more "psychological" view for the lotto teams, where a win this weekend can give positive momentum, but playoff teams could lose materially and psychologically if stars are injured.
For Saturday and Sunday, there are a total of six games, and every team except the Sparks will play its last game either Saturday or Sunday. The Shock will play both days. Three of the six total games will be on NBA TV or ESPN2.
1. Tulsa Shock (9-23) at New York Liberty (14-19), 2 PM ET/1 PM CT/11 AM PT
Game is on NBA TV nationally and MSG if you're in the NYC area. For the Shock, the team heads on a two day and two game road trip facing the Liberty for Saturday and Sunday. I see a lot of parallels between the Shock's current late season surge and the 2011-2012 Washington Wizards' six game winning streak to end the season. Here is a quick piece by Mike Prada of Bullets Forever, the Wizards' SB Nation hub on his thoughts that the six game winning streak was great, but no one should necessarily view that winning streak as a guarantee that the 2012-2013 NBA season would be really great either. One large reason why was because the Wizards played relatively lower ranking opponents like Charlotte and Cleveland, and beat Miami twice in the end of the season when the team rested LeBron.
So for the Shock, the team is currently on a three game winning streak, and they have beaten playoff opponents that basically knew their seeding beforehand like San Antonio, or beat other weak teams like Phoenix. So in short, winning this game vs. NY and Sunday's game vs. Indy will give Shock fans a lot of optimism heading into the 2013 season, regardless of what pick comes about next Wednesday. For the players, they'll feel like the end of the season like it's the last day of school, rather than the end of a hellacious 34 games and four months. I certainly will be rooting for Coach Klop, GloJo, Ivory, and Temeka to finish the season on a long winning streak!
For the Liberty, I certainly can't blame them for resting Cappie Pondexter if that's what comes about. However at the same time, losing two straight games to a lottery team doesn't necessarily put them in the playoffs on a good note when NY has been inconsistent all season.
2. Washington Mystics (5-28) at Chicago Sky (13-20), 8 PM PT/7 PM CT/5 PM PT
Surprisingly, NBA TV will air this game too nationally, and in the Chicago era, turn on CN100.
For the Sky, what went wrong? You could point at Piph's early season injury as part of the reason why the team collapsed from a hot start. Also, was acquiring Swin Cash the right move after all? Can Courtney "get it?" Certainly debatable as well. I know this is also Ticha Penicheiro's last game, but that is elementary as opposed to Chicago's overall questions for the 2012-2013 offseason. The good news is that the team they're playing is worse, but a bad last game, and a home game on top of that just isn't the way to end the year.
For the Mystics, you can multiply the Sky's woes by a thousand. Like the brother basketball team, which has suffered its worst four year stretch in wins and losses in franchise history, the Mystics have suffered its worst two year stretch in franchise history, and will win no more than 12 games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Who was the GM of the team in that time? What was her strategy to correct the issues of the team, and admittedly, she entered a bad situation which was to the fault of those above her. But did that strategy work to the better of this team?
I certainly hope the Mystics can give their all. Playing a good game, and hopefully a win can hopefully be the start of a prosperous future.
I leave you with a Washington Times article on our "cult favorite" player on this team this year, Natalie Novosel, and how she's learning on the job this season.
1. Seattle Storm (15-18) at Phoenix Mercury (7-26), 3 PM ET/12 PM PT
Game is on ESPN2.
For the Storm, the team would like to end the game on a three game winning streak as it gets ready to face Shannon's team for the playoffs and hopefully not look like a scared bunny. Even if the Storm manages to beat the Lynx in the first round, and I'll go so far to say that even if the Storm wins the whole thing, the big question is whether the Storm should continue "rebuilding on the fly" by trying to snag some younger pieces who may be starter caliber in the future, like Shekinna Stricklen has proven to be this season. A full out rebuild appears to be unthinkable for the team, so will the Storm really focus more on bringing in younger rotation and starter level players to complement Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, or bring more players who are past their prime?
For the Mercury, with the Mystics winning the draft lotto, it is time to really go all out and the year on a good note. But like the Shock, younger players have made something out of their opportunities and have a good chance to be on a roster next season whether for Phoenix or elsewhere.
2. Minnesota Lynx (27-6) at San Antonio Silver Stars (20-13), 3 PM ET/2 PM CT/12 PM PT
ESPN3.com has this one.
This could be a Western Finals matchup, but I think both teams will try not to "show the cards" too much. The Stars however could probably use this win more so they can gain their mid-season form into the postseason. They lost 7 of their last 10 as a matter of fact.
3. Atlanta Dream (19-14) at Connecticut Sun (24-9), 5 PM ET/2 PM PT
CPTV has this in Connecticut.
The Dream goes for a second straight 20 win season, while the Sun looks to keep everyone fresh for the playoffs both physically and mentally.
With the Dream winning four straight, does that now put the "trade Angel" rumors to rest? I guess the postseason will determine that.
4. Tulsa Shock (9-23) at Indiana Fever (21-12), 5 PM ET/2 PM PT
NBA TV has this game, and this should be televised! Tulsa's record is subject to change.
I wrote what I thought about Tulsa above. This is like a last day of school class exam more or less, so win this game, and it's like getting an A on that test.
For Indy, the team needs to keep everyone fresh for the playoffs physically, but this Shock team isn't a team that can be overlooked, so I think this game will ultimately be more competitive than the Mystics game was on Friday.
So that's the rest of the regular season games this year. Please feel free to continue commenting, memeing, and of course, rec'ing comments that you like!