Nine games to play and three games out of a playoff spot; that is where the San Antonio Silver Stars find themselves with the 2013 season winding down.
They trail the Seattle Storm, a team that was supposed to suffer the same fate as the Silver Stars in 2013. From my season preview on May 23:
“With Seattle losing seemingly their entire damn roster to injury this season, it shouldn’t be a struggle to finish with a stronger record than the Storm. So it should be a battle between five teams to get four spots. There are a lot of question marks around how the “three to see” will fit in with their new teams, and San Antonio can try to get wins in early while Phoenix and Tulsa go through their inevitable growing pains.”
Give me credit for being half right. Tulsa and Phoenix did go through some growing pains; heck, one could argue that both teams are still struggling to effectively integrate their top draft picks. My assumption that the Storm would roll over and die this season could not have been more wrong. While there is nothing pretty about the way Seattle has been winning basketball games, they have picked up wins over tough competition — including against their longtime rival the Los Angeles Sparks.
With the WNBA postseason series being as short as they are, getting in to the postseason guarantees you a chance to win a ring every single year. Get in and see what happens, as the optimistic fan often says. What if the Storm play the Sparks in the opening series? Seattle beat Los Angeles in their last two meetings, two out of four overall.
As surprising as the Storm have been is as disappointing as the Tulsa Shock have been. They have looked awful this season, winning just eight of their 26 games thus far. They could be eliminated in just three games from now as their elimination number is five with eight games to go. They need Seattle and San Antonio to start losing, quickly, while the Shock have to figure it out quickly.
Whether or not earning that fourth playoff spot is worth it is another debate entirely for these three teams. While anything can happen, I don’t expect the Storm, Stars or Shock to do any damage in the playoffs if they get there.
Since the 2001 season when the playoffs expanded to eight teams, only one four seed has made the finals — the Charlotte Sting. They were swept by the Sparks. A one or two seed team has won the championship every year since the inception of the league. Not saying it can’t happen; but I’m saying it probably won’t.
The team that has the most to gain by making the playoffs is the Tulsa Shock. This was supposed to be their year — the first year the club puts up a winning record since it moved to Oklahoma. They were supposed to ride their rookie to the promised land! Well, the narrative was nice — but it’s not to be. Their head coach/general manager Gary Kloppenburg has to be on the hottest of hot seats, particularly with season ticket renewals going out here in a bit.
Both Seattle and San Antonio have excuses — their stars are injured so this could easily be passed off as a rebuilding year for both clubs. When Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson, Sophia Young and Becky Hammon come back in 2014, the fans will be ready. So making the playoffs — while it would be nice — does not offer the same benefits to these two clubs as a lottery pick would. You can’t tell your players that as a coach, which is another reason I think the coach/GM jobs should be mandatorily separated.
Here is San Antonio’s remaining schedule:
|Date||Team||Wins||Losses||Season Series W||Season Series L|
|Aug 23||Tulsa Shock||8||18||1||0|
|Aug 25||Seattle Storm||12||13||1||2|
|Aug 27||Seattle Storm||12||13||1||2|
|Aug 30||Tulsa Shock||8||18||1||0|
|Aug 31||Los Angeles Sparks||18||8||1||2|
|Sep 6||Phoenix Mercury||14||12||2||1|
|Sep 8||Tulsa Shock||8||18||1||0|
|Sep 13||Phoenix Mercury||14||12||2||1|
|Sep 15||Atlanta Dream||14||9||0||1|
Like I have said before — not a lot of world-beaters in San Antonio’s upcoming schedule as they have put together a combined record of 108-121 (not scientific, by any means). That being said, the Silver Stars only have a winning record against two of those teams — and they’ve only played Tulsa one time. If they can sweep the season series against Tulsa, the Stars have a chance to get in to the playoffs — but they will have to beat Seattle, too.
They’re probably going to lose to Los Angeles, Atlanta and Phoenix — they all have something to play for, particularly Phoenix with their new coach. They’re also better teams than San Antonio, despite the Stars catching their opponents sleeping on a few occasions this year.
If San Antonio finishes the season 14-22 by sweeping the Shock and beating the Storm in their remaining two games…it could happen; but I’m not holding my breath.