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The Daily Swish & Wednesday Open Thread: The Western Conference Playoff race is taking shape

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Two of the seeds in the playoffs have been set in stone out West. And three spots are taken.

We found a pic of Diana Taurasi without her bun. That made my day!
We found a pic of Diana Taurasi without her bun. That made my day!
Nathaniel S. Butler, NBA

Happy Wednesday everyone. Let's get to some links:

Tuesday final scores

Phoenix Mercury beat the New York Liberty, 76-64 - The win clinches the Mercury's #1 seed out in the Western Conference playoffs, and it also pegs the Minnesota Lynx at the #2 spot. Tina Charles scored 16 points in the first quarter, finishing with 26 for the night. But it wasn't enough against this team. Recap from the AP via ArizonaSports.com. Queenie also has a recap for you here.

Kristi Toliver scored 29 points and led the Los Angeles Sparks to a 71-63 win over the Minnesota Lynx - L.A.'s win also clinches them a playoff spot. There is a good chance that the Sparks will also be the #3 seed in the playoffs next week, where they will once again face Minny. And this win could be a sign that this series may be more competitive than originally expected. Recap here from the AP via ESPN.

Other links

Maya Moore scored 20 points and now holds the Lynx's franchise record for points scored in a season during the aforementioned game vs. L.A. - here's a note from Tim Leighton of the Pioneer Press.

ESPN's Michelle Smith has her latest WNBA power rankings - This came out on Monday and I missed it. At #1 was the Phoenix Mercury, #2 is the Minnesota Lynx. Then at #3, it's the Washington Mystics, but they face a tough test this morning against the Chicago Sky.

Sue Bird hints that she will not play internationally in the 2014-15 offseason - the Seattle Storm guard talks about trying to get her team to finish 2014 on the right note. The last paragraph is where she mentions that she mat "have to get settled out [in New York]" where she is from, which is where she talks about not playing internationally. This is a column she wrote on SLAM Online.

Pioneer of a Crossover Move, from the New York Times' Jeré Longman - Here's a great story on how Becky Hammon made her journey to becoming an NBA assistant coach. It started on a flight from London back home where she struck up a conversation with Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. ... that crossover word has been used a lot lately...

Staying on the subject of female NBA coaches, South Carolina Associate Head Coach Lisa Boyle talks about her time with the Cleveland Cavaliers - Boyle spent a year in Cleveland from 2001-02 where she was a volunteer assistant. She gives her take on terminology and whether men's basketball is truly different than the women's game. Link to WNBA.com.

Minnesota Lynx post Damiris Dantas will miss the rest of the regular season due to a family matter - She will be back for the playoffs though. Link goes to a blog entry by Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune.

Wednesday Games

This will be your thread Wednesday as well. Here are the games on tap:

Chicago Sky (14-17) at Washington Mystics (15-16), 11:30 a.m. ET

Game is on Monumental Network online and CSN MidAtlantic in the D.C. area. This is a big game in the Eastern Conference because as of today, the Mystics have the upper hand towards claiming a playoff spot of their own, and they have a slim shot at the number one seed believe it or not. If the Mystics win today, they will clinch a playoff spot, after choking on Sunday.

But I believe that the team with the best players are more likely to win when there's something big on the line. And the best players on the court are Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles for the Sky. Chicago has won four of its last five games, including a big win over D.C. on August 3. So I expect them to win this one, even considering what I said about Stefanie Dolson on Monday.

But if anyone can pull off a professional basketball coaching performance like Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt did for the 2013-14 Euroleague season, it's Mike Thibault. Here's another link on the story on Blatt, who is now the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach.

Phoenix Mercury (27-4) at Atlanta Dream (17-14), 7 p.m. ET

This game is on Fox Sports South in the Atlanta area, Fox Sports Arizona Plus in the Phoenix area, and NBA TV nationally. With Phoenix clinching the number one seed in the 2014 Playoffs, does this mean that they'll rest the stars? We'll see.

Have more links? Share them in the comments below! And of course, enjoy the games.