Sunday in Los Angeles, we got to see just why the Phoenix Mercury are the hottest team in the WNBA. Because even against a foe that played very well and had diverse scoring, the Mercury still got the last word. Their seventh victory in a row included clutch shots and terrific chemistry and a Brittany Griner dunk. Right now, the Mercury look like they can't wait to play every game.
Week 8 Power Rankings
1. Phoenix (13-3; last week: No. 1)
A seven-game winning streak that includes four road victories? That's impressive. So is the fact that it started at Minnesota and was just extended to seven at Los Angeles. Against the Sparks, Diana Taurasi had her best game of the season: a 32-point, six-assist tour de force. At this rate, the Mercury are going to enter the All-Star Game that Phoenix is hosting (July 19) with a full head of steam. Phoenix has five games between now and then, but four are at home.
2. Atlanta (12-5; No. 2)
The Dream went 8-2 in June and established themselves as the Eastern Conference's best team, which is what most people expected them to be. They are 1-1 to start July, and their loss last Tuesday against Indiana was indicative of a flaw that Atlanta has to be wary about. That is when their offense gets stagnant, and all of the weight falls on Angel McCoughtry and Erika de Souza. Contrast that to the win over Washington on Saturday, when five players scored in double figures.
3. Minnesota (13-6; No. 3)
Even though coach Cheryl Reeve isn't going to use it as an excuse, injuries have kept the Lynx from being the team that they hope to be by season's end. When Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus are out, it affects the Lynx both offensively and defensively. The latter was more the issue in Minnesota's 87-80 loss at New York on Sunday, especially on the interior as Tina Charles put up a career-high 32 points against the Lynx. Another concern is that Minnesota hasn't played well this season on the road, going 6-5.
4. San Antonio (10-9; No. 5)
Kayla McBride made many memorable plays while at Notre Dame. So it's fitting that in her first visit to Indiana as a pro, she got the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in a 71-70 thriller on Saturday. It disappointed the Fever fans celebrating Tamika Catchings' return. But that, along with their victory at Connecticut last Tuesday, were important road wins against the Eastern Conference for the Stars.
5. Indiana (8-10; No. 11)
This season in the power rankings, Indiana has been like an elevator that doesn't know what floor it is supposed to stop at. So it just keeps going up and down. The Fever plunged to No. 11 in last week's rankings. But after coming just a last-second 3-pointer away from three consecutive victories (see Kayla McBride, above), the Fever are on the ascent again. Or at least they appear to be. Catchings, who missed Indy's first 17 games with a back issue, returned to the lineup with six points, four assists and seven rebounds against San Antonio on Saturday. You can't overstate what it means to the Fever to have Catchings in the lineup again.
6. Connecticut (9-10; No. 4)
Allison Hightower (knee) played in the Sun's home losses to San Antonio and Tulsa last week, but now is out again for two to three weeks for an arthroscopic procedure. The Sun miss her, and almost lost their fifth consecutive game Saturday after having won six in a row before that. But Renee Montgomery scored with just less than six seconds left at Tulsa for the Sun's second road victory this season. They'll look for another Tuesday as they travel to Atlanta (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).
7. Chicago (8-10; No. 7)
After giving Sparks fans something more to grouse about -- Chicago won at Los Angeles last Tuesday -- the Sky stumbled at Phoenix and Seattle. Between illness and injuries -- Elena Delle Donne and Courtney Vandersloot are both currently out -- Chicago has a lot to deal with. The bright spot for the Sky is that they have several so-called role players who've had to shoulder more responsibility, and that could help down the line.
8. Los Angeles (7-10; No. 8)
Last week was the 2014 Sparks in a microcosm. They lost at home to ailing Chicago, won at Seattle, and then let a potential victory against Phoenix get away at the Staples Center. It continues to be a grab-bag kind of season for Los Angeles: You never know what you're going to get. What has to be particularly frustrating for the Sparks is how poorly they've performed at home, where they are 3-6.
9. New York (7-11; No. 12)
In the Liberty's two victories last week, coach Bill Laimbeer said he started to see more of the team he hopes New York can be. The win over Minnesota on Sunday has to be especially helpful to the Liberty's confidence, as both Charles and Cappie Pondexter had double-doubles. New York, which has won four of its past five, has two of its three games before the All-Star break at home.
10. Seattle (8-12; No. 10)
Admittedly, beating Chicago without Delle Donne, which Seattle did last Saturday, is not the same thing as beating the Sky with her. But this season, the Storm are looking for all the bright spots they can find, and a win is a win. However, this is a brutal week for the Storm, with consecutive road games at Phoenix, San Antonio and Minnesota.
11. Tulsa (7-11; No. 6)
You've got to wonder if the Shock are just going to be a hard-luck team all season: A squad that's in almost every game, but is still in last place in the Western Conference. Last week, after taking a pretty good pounding at New York, the Shock won big at Connecticut. But that momentum was tempered by a two-point loss to the Sun in Tulsa on Saturday. The rest of July is critical for the Shock, who have seven of their remaining 10 games this month at home.
12. Washington (7-12; No. 9)
Last week was a tough one for the Mystics, as they lost to Indiana and Atlanta. Washington next has four road games in a row going into the All-Start break. Already in last place in the East, the Mystics are going to have to find some offense -- they average the second-fewest points in the league -- or this road swing could really mire them deeper in the basement.