WNBA Power Rankings: No. 1 on the line as Liberty host Aces
Despite being down 13 points at the half, the Aces rally together in the second half to defeat the Sky for their 30th win of the season. (1:47)
When the Las Vegas Aces entered their Aug. 6 game against the New York Liberty, the defending WNBA champions were atop the league standings at 24-2 with a commanding lead over the second-place Liberty, then 21-6.
When their fourth meeting is played Monday in Brooklyn (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App), New York hopes to make the race for the top seed tighter with just two weeks left in the regular season.
The Liberty, who won that Aug. 6 game 99-61, remain second in the standings but are No. 1 in ESPN's WNBA Power Rankings for the second consecutive week. At 27-7, they are slightly closer to the 30-5 Aces. But do they really have time to catch up? New York has six games left (two on the road), while Las Vegas has five (two on the road).
Las Vegas' loss to New York in the Commissioner's Cup final on Aug. 15 doesn't count in the standings, but that started a stretch in which the Aces have gone 3-3 in their past six games. Las Vegas had three total losses in their 30 games prior to that.
Is anything wrong with the Aces? Or is it more about their opponents?
Las Vegas continues to lead the WNBA in points per game (92.8). But as coach Becky Hammon always stresses, when the Aces' defense isn't up to par, it can have a big impact on their offense. They've been held to fewer than 80 points in each of their five league losses, and in three of those games scored in the low 60s (which also was the case in the Commissioner's Cup final).
This past week showed the Aces at their best offensively with 112 points -- including a WNBA single-game-record-tying 53 from A'ja Wilson -- against the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday, but also at their worst with 62 in a loss to the Washington Mystics on Saturday.
The Liberty, meanwhile, clearly have improved with Jonquel Jones getting healthy, and they've settled into a better chemistry after incorporating several new pieces this season.
The Los Angeles Sparks and the Mystics -- the other teams to beat the Aces during this recent stretch -- are playing with urgency as they try to secure playoff spots. The Mystics also finally had what looked like a fully healthy team when they beat the visiting Aces.
At the start of August, most thought there was zero chance for the Aces to finish anywhere but first place. It's still likely to happen, especially considering their last three games are against the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury (twice), teams that were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday.
But the Aces are not looking as invincible this month, and that has made things a little more intriguing.
Breanna Stewart finishes with 24 points in an overtime win over the Sun, breaking the Liberty record for most points in a season in the process.
1. New York LibertyRecord: 27-7Previous ranking: 1This week: vs. Las Vegas (Monday), vs. Connecticut (Friday), at Chicago (Sunday)
It took a comeback from down 20, a late steal by Courtney Vandersloot and overtime for the Liberty to beat Connecticut 95-90 on Thursday. But a win is a win, and the Liberty followed it by dismantling Minnesota 111-76, marking New York's highest point total all season. Breanna Stewart had 38 points vs. the Lynx (her sixth game with 30 or more points this season) despite not playing in the fourth quarter.
A'ja Wilson makes history for the Aces, tying the WNBA record with a 53-point outing vs. the Dream.
2. Las Vegas AcesRecord: 30-5Previous ranking: 2This week: at New York (Monday), vs. Washington (Thursday), vs. Seattle (Saturday)
The Aces gave up 100 points to Atlanta and 87 to Chicago last week, but won those games. Then not much went right Saturday vs. Washington -- Las Vegas' third of four consecutive road games. Admittedly, the Aces were facing an energized Mystics team. But their 30.8 shooting percentage was their worst of the season, and 14 assists tied their season low.
Alyssa Thomas' double-double vs. the Liberty gives her the WNBA record for the most in a season.
3. Connecticut SunRecord: 24-11Previous ranking: 4This week: vs. Phoenix (Thursday), at New York (Friday)
It was almost a perfect week for the Sun, who got wins against Washington and Los Angeles, but let what looked like a victory against New York get away. Still, it's a good sign they were in position to beat the Liberty. Alyssa Thomas has 25 double-doubles in 2023, the most by any player ever in a single season.
The Dallas Wings take down the Mercury 77-74, eliminating Phoenix from playoff contention.
4. Dallas WingsRecord: 19-16Previous ranking: 3This week: at Indiana (Friday), vs. Indiana (Sunday
The Wings went 1-2 after two losses to the Lynx and a win at Phoenix, but drop just one spot in the Power Rankings. Dallas lost Satou Sabally to an ankle injury late in Tuesday's loss at Minnesota, and she didn't play Thursday or Sunday. We will see whether she returns this week; right now the Wings have a two-game lead over the Lynx for fourth place.
Nneka Ogwumike racks up a game-high 29 points and 12 rebounds to help the Sparks overcome a 16-point deficit against the Dream.
5. Los Angeles SparksRecord: 15-19Previous ranking: 6This week: vs. Chicago (Tuesday), vs. Seattle (Thursday) vs. Washington (Sunday)
The Sparks went 2-1 and pushed their winning streak to six in a row before falling at Connecticut on Sunday. Tuesday's matchup with Chicago is big, as the Sky are also still battling for a playoff spot. The Sparks want to make the most of this week's three home games; after that, they finish with three on the road.
6. Minnesota LynxRecord: 17-18Previous ranking: 7This week: at Washington (Tuesday), vs. Atlanta (Friday), vs. Phoenix (Sunday)
Since starting the season 0-6, the Lynx have reached .500 three times: at 9-9, 13-13 and 17-17. But the Liberty's blowout win Saturday kept the Lynx from claiming a winning record for the first time in 2023. Minnesota has just two of its remaining five games at Target Center -- but that isn't a bad thing considering the Lynx have a better record on the road (10-7) than at home (7-11).
Watch the Game Highlights from Washington Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces, 08/26/2023
7. Washington MysticsRecord: 16-18Previous ranking: 8This week: vs. Minnesota (Tuesday), at Las Vegas (Thursday), at Los Angeles (Sunday)
The Mystics lost to Connecticut on Tuesday. But then for just the second time since late June, they had starters Elena Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins and Shakira Austin all healthy enough to play Saturday against the Aces, and it made a big difference. Delle Donne's 21-point total in the victory marked the first time she had led Washington in scoring since June 30. The Mystics need the good vibes to continue with four of their last six on the road, including trips to Las Vegas and New York.
8. Atlanta DreamRecord: 16-19Previous ranking: 5This week: vs. Phoenix (Tuesday), at Minnesota (Friday)
It has been a rough month (2-8) for the Dream, who were 0-3 last week. That included Sunday's loss at Indiana, when Atlanta led by eight with less than two minutes left in the game. The Dream have Rhyne Howard (nose/face injury) back, but they need to regroup and finish strong.
9. Chicago SkyRecord: 14-21Previous ranking: 11This week: at Los Angeles (Tuesday), vs. New York (Sunday)
The Sky went 2-1 last week after a five-game losing streak, beating Seattle twice and falling to Las Vegas. They are still in the playoff race but don't have much margin for error the rest of the way. Chicago is 2-1 against the Sparks, with Tuesday's game in Los Angeles feeling close to a must-win for the Sky.
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10. Indiana FeverRecord: 11-24Previous ranking: 10This week: vs. Dallas (Friday), at Dallas (Sunday)
The Fever have won three games in a row for the first time since July 2021. They were 2-0 this past week, beating Seattle and then rallying in the fourth quarter against Atlanta. Guard Kristy Wallace hit six 3-pointers for Indiana against the Dream, three of those in the final 1 minute, 10 seconds. The win helped the Fever stave off their elimination from playoff contention, but it is almost certain they will eventually meet that fate for the seventh year in a row. Aliyah Boston also suffered a thumb injury Sunday, but with their two wins, this was still an upbeat week for Indiana.
11. Seattle StormRecord: 10-25Previous ranking: 9This week: at Los Angeles (Thursday), at Las Vegas (Saturday)
This past week snuffed out the Storm's barely alive playoff hopes, as they lost twice to Chicago and once to Indiana. Jewell Loyd still totaled 77 points in the three games, but she will miss the postseason for the first time since her rookie year in 2015.
12. Phoenix MercuryRecord: 9-25Previous ranking: 12This week: at Atlanta (Tuesday), at Connecticut (Thursday), at Minnesota (Sunday)
The league's longest active playoff streak ended as Phoenix was eliminated with Sunday's loss to Dallas, after falling earlier in the week to Los Angeles. The last time the Mercury didn't go to the postseason was 2012; the next year, they drafted Brittney Griner No. 1. Griner was back in action Sunday after missing three games due to health and safety protocols. The Mercury have a lot to figure out for 2024, including whether interim coach Nikki Blue will be retained.1. New York LibertyRecord:Previous ranking:This week:2. Las Vegas AcesRecord:Previous ranking:This week:3. Connecticut SunRecord:Previous ranking:This week:4. Dallas WingsRecord:Previous ranking:This week:5. Los Angeles SparksRecord:Previous ranking:This week:6. Minnesota LynxRecord:Previous ranking:This week:7. Washington MysticsRecord:Previous ranking:This week:8. Atlanta DreamRecord:Previous ranking:This week:9. Chicago SkyRecord:Previous ranking:This week:10. Indiana FeverRecord:Previous ranking:This week:11. Seattle StormRecord:Previous ranking:This week:12. Phoenix MercuryRecord:Previous ranking:This week: