The team that ended last season on top is now No. 1 in ESPN's WNBA Power Rankings for the first time this year. The defending champion Chicago Sky went 3-0 this past week, but the jump up is also about how they did it: with an epic comeback, a superstar's triumphant return "home" and a buzzer-beater after a lead got away.
The victories all took a different kind of grit and focus, but they added up to the same things: proof of how cohesive the Sky look right now.
"I think this was a huge week for us," Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot said. "It really showed what we're capable of, that we're always in a game and that we can finish tight ones."
Vandersloot led the Sky in scoring all three games (25, 15 and 18 points) and hit the 3-pointer as time expired Sunday in an 88-85 victory over Minnesota. The Sky had an 11-point lead with 4 minutes left in that game, and Vandersloot wasn't thrilled it came down to a final shot. Still, the fact that the Sky played the closing seconds with patience to get an open look -- and Vandersloot nailed it -- is the most important thing.
On Tuesday, the Sky withstood a 41-point first quarter at Las Vegas before a WNBA-record 28-point comeback to beat the Aces 104-95. Again, Chicago would have preferred not to get in such a hole, but how the Sky responded gave them a record they might hold for a long time.
On Thursday, the Sky's Candace Parker played in Los Angeles for the first time since leaving the Sparks as a free agent last year, and she had her third career triple-double -- a WNBA record -- in an 82-59 win. It was an emotional trip for Parker, who grew up in Chicago but has also made a home in Los Angeles after 13 seasons with the Sparks. Parker led Chicago in rebounding all three games last week (10, 14, 8).
June has been a very good month for Chicago. After starting the season 5-3 in May, the Sky are 8-2 this month, with both losses by two points. The two-point defeat at the Indiana Fever on June 19 was a tough one for the Sky, who felt they let that game slip away. But look how they responded.
Chicago has just one game left in June: Wednesday's matinee at home against the Connecticut Sun. The Sky will start July with another daytime game, on Saturday (1 ET, ESPN) against the visiting Phoenix Mercury in a rematch of last year's WNBA Finals.
And, of course, the All-Star Game is coming up at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on July 10. Parker was voted in as a starter, but no other Sky player got that honor, to Parker's chagrin. The reserves, selected by the league's coaches, will be named Tuesday, and Vandersloot seems certain to be on that list, along with possibly others from the Sky.
"We're able to do what it takes to win games," Vandersloot said. "We can learn and grow from what we did wrong while still winning. It showed our identity this last week."
1. Chicago Sky
Previous ranking: 3
The Sky were without coach James Wade (health and safety protocols) and guard/forward Kahleah Copper (back) for Sunday's win over the Lynx. But Belgium's Julie Allemand, who joined the Sky late and first played June 10, had her best game so far this season with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting. And her countrywoman, Emma Meesseman, continues to shine for the Sky; she's second on the team in scoring (13.2 PPG) and rebounding (6.3 RPG).
This week: vs. Connecticut (Wednesday), vs. Phoenix (Saturday)
Kelsey Plum nails big-time 3 in OT for the Aces
Kelsey Plum cuts into the Mystics' lead with a 3-pointer in overtime.
2. Las Vegas Aces
Previous ranking: 1
This was the toughest week so far this season for the Aces, who had two gut-punch losses at home, their first back-to-back defeats this season. The aforementioned biggest comeback by Chicago came at Las Vegas' expense. Coach Becky Hammon summarized that game as a phenomenal first quarter followed by the Aces getting their tails kicked. That was followed by an 87-86 overtime loss to Washington. Defense was a concern in both losses. The Aces are still in first place in the WNBA standings, and now will try to regroup with four consecutive games on the road.
This week: This week: at Los Angeles (Monday), at Seattle (Wednesday), at Minnesota (Friday), at Minnesota (Sunday)
Alyssa Thomas feeds Jonquel Jones for the Sun's bucket
Alyssa Thomas makes a nice feed inside to Jonquel Jones for the Sun's bucket vs. the Atlanta Dream.
3. Connecticut Sun
Previous ranking: 2
Recently, the Sun's offense has been trending downward, which could be a concern. Connecticut went 1-1 last week, falling 81-77 to New York and beating Atlanta 72-61. In the last three games, the Sun have averaged 70.7 PPG, as opposed to 90.9 in their seven previous games in June.
This week: at Chicago (Wednesday), vs. Washington (Sunday)
Mystics hold off Aces in overtime
Ariel Atkins scores a big bucket in overtime, and Alysha Clark adds 20 points in the Mystics' win over the Aces.
4. Washington Mystics
Previous ranking: 4
It wasn't the best week for the Mystics, who went 1-2, but it ended well. With all three games in the Pacific time zone, it was expected to be a challenge. After a two-point loss in Los Angeles, the Mystics fell by 14 at Seattle. However, they came back to beat league-leading Las Vegas in overtime with Alysha Clark getting a season-high 20 points. Also, Elena Delle Donne played back-to-back road games for the first time this season, getting 20 points at Seattle and her first double-double of 2022 (19 points, 10 rebounds) in Las Vegas.
This week: vs. Atlanta (Tuesday), at Connecticut (Sunday)
Ionescu hits Curry's 'night night' celebration after logo 3 to ice game
Sabrina Ionescu caps her big night with a long 3-pointer and then borrows Steph Curry's signature celebration.
5. Seattle Storm
Previous ranking: 5
The Storm went 1-1 last week, beating the Mystics and then losing to Los Angeles as the offense went dry in the fourth quarter. But the biggest news for Seattle was center Tina Charles' sudden departure from Phoenix, and the possibility that she might soon join the Storm. With center Mercedes Russell having played just five games this season due to injury, post help would be big for Seattle. Charles was reportedly unsatisfied with her offensive role in Phoenix, where she averaged 14.8 shots per game. That's exactly how many shots Seattle guard Jewell Loyd is averaging, with MVP-candidate forward Breanna Stewart at 16.3. If Charles expects the Storm's offense to run more through her, this could be an issue.
This week: vs. Las Vegas (Wednesday), vs. Indiana (Friday), at Atlanta (Sunday)
6. New York Liberty
Previous ranking: 8
The Liberty went 2-0, both on the road, this week, and now they are in the top half of the Power Rankings after being as low as last place earlier this season. In New York's win at Connecticut, the Liberty made 13 3-pointers and held their own on the boards with the Sun. In their victory at Atlanta, Sabrina Ionescu nearly had her second triple-double of the season, finishing with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
This week: vs. Atlanta (Thursday), at Los Angeles (Sunday)
7. Los Angeles Sparks
Previous ranking: 11
Los Angeles made a big jump after going 2-1 this week with victories over Washington and Seattle. It doesn't necessarily mean all is well with the Sparks, who didn't look very competitive in the game between those two wins, an 82-59 loss to Chicago. Center Liz Cambage hasn't played more than 22 minutes in any game in June and also hasn't scored in double figures this month. Guard Chennedy Carter played just 2 minutes against the Mystics and not at all against the Sky or Storm. But Nneka Ogwumike continues to excel. She is shooting 59% from the field; if she stays there, it would be her best rate since her 2016 MVP season, when she shot an astonishing 66.5%.
This week: vs. Las Vegas (Monday), at Dallas (Friday), vs. New York (Sunday)
8. Dallas Wings
Previous ranking: 6
After having one of their best weeks of the season, this past week was up and down for the Wings, with losses to Atlanta and Phoenix but a win over Indiana. The Wings know what they are going to get from leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale almost all the time. It will help if they can get more consistency from center Teaira McCowan, who had her second double-double of the season last week.
This week: at Minnesota (Tuesday), vs. Los Angeles (Friday)
9. Minnesota Lynx
Previous ranking: 12
We knew the Lynx were getting close to ending their five-game losing streak, and they did it with two victories over Phoenix. Then they took Chicago to the wire, before losing on Vandersloot's buzzer-beater. Those results -- plus getting back star center Sylvia Fowles after she missed five games with a knee injury -- propelled the Lynx this high. Sure, the record still has Minnesota tied at the bottom of the WNBA standings. But in our weekly measurement, they deserve this three-spot bump. And they are about to start a pivotal stretch of six consecutive games (and eight of the next 10) at home.
This week: vs. Dallas (Tuesday), vs. Las Vegas (Friday), vs. Las Vegas (Sunday)
10. Atlanta Dream
Previous ranking: 9
The Dream beat Dallas to break their four-game losing streak but followed that with losses to New York and Connecticut. Atlanta is 3-7 in June; guard Erica Wheeler (foot) not playing since June 7 has hurt. Still, No. 1 draft pick Rhyne Howard is averaging 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. And the fact that the Dream are ahead of four other teams in the WNBA standings as we near July -- when many expected them to be in last place -- is a positive for Atlanta.
This week: at Washington (Tuesday), at New York (Thursday), vs. Seattle (Sunday)
11. Phoenix Mercury
Previous ranking: 7
Win or lose, one thing that's true about the Mercury is they're usually never boring. This week's drama with Charles and the team "divorcing" -- as per the language of contract termination -- shook up the WNBA on Saturday. Charles is a superstar player, but the Mercury didn't exactly seem devastated by her exit, which suggests things have been tense for a while. Riding on that us-against-the-world emotion, Phoenix won in Dallas on Saturday after two losses earlier in the week to Minnesota. Can the Mercury keep that positive energy going? Back-to-back games at home against last-place Indiana should help, but trying to predict anything with Phoenix this season is perilous.
This week: vs. Indiana (Monday), vs. Indiana (Wednesday), at Chicago (Saturday)
12. Indiana Fever
Previous ranking: 10
The Fever lost their lone game last week, at Dallas, and had their second-lowest point total (68) this season. A bright spot was rookie Queen Egbo's first double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds).
This week: at Phoenix (Monday), at Phoenix (Wednesday), at Seattle (Friday)