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WNBA Power Rankings: Minnesota Lynx rise, New York Liberty fall

@minnesotalynx

Coming off arguably the best game of the season between the Storm and Aces, we have a fresh batch of equally enthralling power rankings.

Where does every team stand two weeks before the All-Star game and Olympic break? Find out below.

12. Indiana Fever (1-15) —

In their one win this season, the Fever scored a season-high 89 points on 51.6 percent shooting from the field and 46.7 percent from 3-point range. They haven’t surpassed 80 points since then and are averaging a WNBA-worst 26.7 percent from 3. They also waived their 2020 No. 3 draft pick, Lauren Cox, this week. Times are tough in Indiana.

11. Atlanta Dream (5-9) -1

Chennedy Carter is back, but Atlanta’s defense from earlier in the season isn’t. The Dream are giving up a league-high 88.3 points per game, made worse by the Liberty putting up 101 points against them on Saturday. They’re forcing steals and turnovers with their speed, but they’re letting opponents shoot nearly 47 percent against them per game.

10. Los Angeles Sparks (6-8) +1

The Sparks are currently the worst rebounding team in the league, collecting just 29 per game to their opponents’ 40.1. When you combine that with a low-scoring offense, the Sparks need to shoot lights out — like they did in a win over the Mystics last week — to make up for the lack of possessions.

9. New York Liberty (8-8) -3

From watching the Liberty closely last week, it’s pretty obvious that Sabrina Ionescu is their X-factor. When she’s in the game, she spreads out defenses with her vision and passing ability. The problem is she’s still working her way back from ankle tendinitis and she hasn’t been hitting enough of her own shots to draw defenders toward her and away from her teammates.

8. Phoenix Mercury (7-7) -1

It’s taking the Mercury more time than most to heat up offensively during games. They’re averaging the second-fewest points in the first quarter (18.7) and the third-fewest in the first half (39.1). That’s forced them to play catch-up in many games decided by last-minute possessions. Diana Taurasi’s return has come at a good time.

7. Washington Mystics (7-8) —

In their seven wins this season, the Mystics are attempting nearly 30 3-pointers a game, the most in the WNBA. It’s clear that where 3-point shooting and Tina Charles go, Washington goes. The question continues to be how long they can hover around .500 with Elena Delle Donne’s return not looking any closer.

6. Minnesota Lynx (7-7) +3

The Lynx are relying heavily on Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier down low, averaging 36.1 points in the paint per game. What’s held them back this season is their backcourt. Crystal Dangerfield has regressed since winning Rookie of the Year, Aerial Powers is hurt and Kayla McBride has been inconsistent. If Layshia Clarendon can prove to be a steady starting point guard, Minnesota should only improve.

5. Dallas Wings (8-8) -1

When you have Allisha Gray, Tyasha Harris, Isabelle Harrison and All-Star candidate Marina Mabrey coming off the bench, your team is in pretty good shape. Dallas’ bench continues to lead the league with 30.4 points per game. When they can wear down opponents with their youth and depth, the Wings are hard to stop.

4. Chicago Sky (9-8) +1

Rachel Galligan explored how the Sky have been able to turn around their season so dramatically in a piece for Just Women’s Sports last week. The Sky’s offense went cold in their loss to the Sun on Sunday, which brought their seven-game winning streak to an end, but their outlook is still bright.

3. Connecticut Sun (10-5) —

The Sun went 2-3 while their best player was dominating at Eurobasket. Jonquel Jones returns Tuesday night after clearing COVID-19 protocols and should give the Sun’s offense an immediate boost.

2. Seattle Storm (12-4) —

The Storm committed 16 turnovers and shot 30.8 percent from 3 against the Aces on Sunday, numbers that are considered bad for them, and they still almost pulled out the win. As long as Mercedes Russell can continue to hold her own down low, the Storm’s backcourt will get it done.

1. Las Vegas Aces (11-4) —

We boldly moved the Aces into the top spot in last week’s power rankings, and they proved us right with their overtime win over the Storm on Sunday. The Aces now hold the season series, 2-1, and don’t show any signs of slowing down. How much longer until the playoffs?

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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