The theme of the Week 5 WNBA Power Rankings: streaks. Some teams ended the skids they were riding, while others have now suffered consecutive losses.
The New York Liberty were able to snap a three-game losing streak, but they are staring down possible games without Sabrina Ionescu, who was a late scratch Sunday due to ankle tendinitis.
And then there's the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces, who have each won three straight games. Seattle won three games in a five-day span, all since Wednesday and all on the road. The Aces went 1-0 in their lone game since the last rankings.
But the streaks become crucial as the middle of the WNBA standings becomes more packed and records begin to all look the same. As the 2021 season heads into its second month, teams like the Storm and Aces, as well as the Connecticut Sun, have established themselves as 2021 WNBA front-runners.
That middle of the pack was especially crowded this week, making it hard to differentiate which teams will be able to push for the top of the standings and, ultimately, a playoff spot.
A look at how things shape up in the Week 5 Power Rankings.
1. Seattle Storm
Previous ranking: 3
In sweeping Connecticut for the season, Seattle has solidified itself as the best team in the WNBA this week, especially after a blowout win to end the weekend. Good defense leads to good offense, and that is exactly what the Storm showed they are capable of, holding the Sun -- who are playing without Jonquel Jones -- to 66 points Sunday.
Sue Bird (10.8 PPG, 6.1 APG) hit three treys Sunday to move into a tie with Katie Smith for second in WNBA history in 3-pointers made (906). Breanna Stewart is still working for that MVP, dropping 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes. She's third in the WNBA with 21.3 PPG.
After four weeks, the Storm have the best record in the WNBA and rank second in the league with 89.1 PPG and a 46.3 field goal percentage.
The Storm are riding a three-game winning streak -- all on the road, where they are 5-0 this season. And though they remain away from home, the schedule is favorable with two dates at 1-11 Indiana.
This week: @IND, @IND
2. Las Vegas Aces
Previous ranking: 1
The Aces are right up there with the Storm as one of the best teams in the league, but Las Vegas' 0-2 mark against Connecticut is what separates them right now.
With A'ja Wilson (19.5 PPG, 8.5 APG) and Liz Cambage (15.3 PPG, 8.2 APG) leading the way, the Aces might be able to make up that difference in the long run. The Aces are leading the league with 89.3 PPG and turn over the ball a WNBA-low 11.5 times per game.
One thing to watch: Las Vegas' past two victories -- at Washington and versus Dallas -- were by single digits. Having an efficient offense can only carry a team so far if it wants to win the WNBA championship. The Aces have to stop letting teams go on runs and keep the score so close at the end of games.
This week: NY, NY
3. Connecticut Sun
Previous ranking: 2
With Jonquel Jones playing for Bosnia-Herzegovina in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Tournament, that's a big hole to fill. She is averaging 21.6 PPG and 10.4 RPG in the WNBA. In their first game without Jones to score and facilitate, the Sun scored just 66 points in Sunday's aforementioned home loss to Seattle. Connecticut is averaging just 80.0 PPG (eighth in the WNBA) and that likely won't improve with Jones gone.
One thing to watch moving forward: DeWanna Bonner, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder (16.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG), was questionable heading into Sunday with a back injury. The veteran played, matching Kaila Charles with a team-high 14 points. But the rest of the team must pick it up, especially with Jones expected to miss most of June.
Upcoming road games against Chicago might be a formidable task for the Sun, but getting at least one win would be key to making things easier when Jones returns.
This week: @CHI, @CHI
Laney's bucket over Griner cushions Liberty's late lead
Betnijah Laney drives, spins and flips a layup over the outstretched arms of Brittney Griner for a big-time bucket to give the Liberty an 85-81 lead over the Mercury with 34 seconds left in the game.
4. New York Liberty
Previous ranking: 5
The Liberty snapped a three-game losing streak with an 85-83 road win against the surging Phoenix Mercury -- and they were able to do so without Sabrina Ionescu (left ankle tendinitis).
Betnijah Laney, the league's Most Improved Player last season, has stepped it up again. She's averaging a career-high 21.0 PPG while also adding 5.4 APG and 4.2 RPG -- could she be any more well-rounded this week?
But the Liberty need to crack down on turnovers; with an average of 16.6 per game, they commit the second most in the league. With point guard Ionescu now day-to-day -- the tendinitis is in the same ankle that kept her out for all but three games in 2020 -- and three straight road games on tap this week, the Liberty will need someone to step in and help the team get back to consistent play.
This week: @LV, @LV, @LA
5. Atlanta Dream
Previous ranking: 7
The Dream were another team that needed a win Sunday to halt a four-game losing streak. They're now tied for fifth in the standings and are a serious contender to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-2.
The Dream showed their offensive capabilities Sunday as they scored more than 100 points for the second time this season. Atlanta made 13 of 29 shots from 3-point range, with five players scoring in double digits and six players hitting at least one trey. That balance is exactly what the Dream need to do to keep winning.
Courtney Williams keeps playing top-notch basketball. She's averaging a career-high 17.5 PPG and 4.1 APG, as well as 7.0 RPG. The Dream are the fourth highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 83.5 PPG. But it's the league-best 9.5 steals per game that is going to keep their playoffs quest alive.
This week: @WAS
6. Phoenix Mercury
Previous ranking: 4
After three wins in a row, the Mercury have dropped three straight, with two of those losses coming by single digits.
Despite the losses, the Mercury have been playing well-rounded, balanced basketball. Brittney Griner is averaging a double-double (19.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG), which included a season-high 29 points in Sunday's 85-83 loss to New York. Griner -- who joins Jonquel Jones as the only players in the league averaging a double-double (Breanna Stewart is averaging 21.3 PPG and 9.6 RPG) -- and Skylar Diggins-Smith (team-high 19.4 PPG) have been playing exceptional basketball without Diana Taurasi on the court with them.
The Mercury remain one of the better teams in a handful of categories, including rebounds per game (36.4; fourth in the WNBA), blocks per game (6.7; first) and field goal percentage (43.1; fifth).
But they need to execute the end of games better.
This week: @LA, @LA
7. Dallas Wings
Previous ranking: 10
Like Atlanta and Phoenix, Dallas sits in that logjam in the middle of the standings of teams with 5-6 records. Despite losing Sunday at Las Vegas on Sunday, the Wings are 3-1 in their past four games.
They are young but mighty, led by Arike Ogunbowale (20.9 PPG), Marina Mabrey (16.9 PPG) and Satou Sabally (14.4 PPG), who dropped 24 points in Sunday's 85-78 loss to Las Vegas.
Their offense is rolling, averaging 85.5 points per game (third best in the league). But they give up 83.2 (fourth most in the WNBA), which is probably why all of their losses have come by single digits. Playing at home against the Lynx twice this week gives them a chance to close out close games.
This week: MIN, MIN
8. Washington Mystics
Previous ranking: 8
Right when it looked like the Mystics were getting into sync, they were blown out by 23 points after turning over the ball 17 times in a 101-78 loss to Atlanta on Sunday. In addition to struggling to hold onto the ball, Tina Charles, the WNBA's leading scorer at 24.0 PPG, was held to a season-low 13 points. The Mystics shot 37.7% from the floor against the Dream.
Even though four players were in double digits in the loss, they were unable to hold onto an early lead due to their turnovers. If the Mystics want to get back onto the right track, they have to hold onto the ball.
This week: ATL, IND
9. Los Angeles Sparks
Previous ranking: 6
After back-to-back wins, the Sparks have dropped two straight. They've scored just 71 and 64 points in their past two losses, showing how much they are missing Chiney Ogwumike and Nneka Ogwumike and their combined 25.4 PPG. Los Angeles averages a league-worst 74.2 points per game. They're also last in assists per game (15.1).
Until the Ogwumikes return, the Sparks need more from guards Kristi Toliver and Te'a Cooper. Toliver, who has averaged double-digit points each of the past nine seasons, is averaging 9.1 PPG, nearly four points off her 2020 scoring average. Cooper, who is just in her second season, is averaging 9.4 PPG, a jump from last season.
Hosing Phoenix twice this week gives Los Angeles the chance to get some consistency going and hopefully halt the losing streak.
This week: PHO, PHO, NY
10. Chicago Sky
Previous ranking: 11
Doesn't it feel good to be healthy again? Candace Parker returned last week after missing eight games with a left ankle injury, and the Sky have won two in a row after enduring a seven-game losing streak.
It took a game to get back into form, but in Saturday's win over Indiana, Parker had 20 points and 14 rebounds -- her first double-double with the Sky. Allie Quigley is also seemingly fully healthy, coming off the bench to score a season-high 16 points Saturday.
Even with the consecutive wins, Chicago is second-to-last in the WNBA standings. The Sky average 78.0 PPG, which ranks 10th. But having your best players back and healthy is a stepping stone to turning around the season. Their upcoming schedule isn't ideal, but notching some wins against a very good team like Connecticut would be a great confidence builder and momentum changer.
This week: @MIN, CON, CON
11. Minnesota Lynx
Previous ranking: 9
After their much-needed three-game winning streak ended earlier in the week, the Lynx bounced back to win a big game against the Sparks on Saturday. Crystal Dangerfield was the high point, dropping a season-high four 3-pointers off the bench to lead Minnesota with 16 points.
The Lynx have been working to find some consistency throughout the court this season. Despite the win against the Sparks, they had 22 turnovers; they average 15.9 a game, third-most in the league. They shot 50% from beyond the arc (11-for-22) on Saturday, but are averaging 33.2% on 3-pointers for the season.
With three games against other teams in the middle of the pack, this week will show if Minnesota can continue its upward movement in the league standings.
This week: CHI, @DAL, @DAL
12. Indiana Fever
Previous ranking: 12
Despite playing Chicago closely on Saturday, Indiana is still looking for its second win of the season.
The Fever also are still looking for their stroke offensively. In Saturday's loss, they shot 48.4%from the floor but made 4 of 11 3-pointers and 15 of 22 free throws. They rank 11th in the league in scoring at 75.2 points per game, and shoot a league-low 27.8% from beyond the arc.
However, Teaira McCowan is one bright spot. The third-year post player has notched six double-doubles this season and is averaging 11.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, career highs in both categories.
The Fever might have to wait a bit longer for their second win, as they host Seattle for back-to-back games. But an upset against one of the best teams in the league would be a high point of the season.
This week: SEA, SEA, @WAS