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July 3, 2006 at 1:09 PM

Lots of teams in the mix

The Western Conference hasn’t been this cramped for space in ions it seems.
As teams head into the All-Star break, only 4 1⁄2-games separate the currently fifth-seeded San Antonio from conference- and league-leading Los Angeles. Normally it’s the Eastern conference that comes down to the final day to decide the four playoff teams, but they’re actually just fighting for placement as New York (4-11), Charlotte (3-13) and expansion Chicago (2-14) appear to be clearly out of the running for a postseason berth. But we can’t forget the WNBA’s version of the Alamo, Anne Donovan’s 2001 Charlotte team that turned a 1-10 start into an Eastern Conference championship.
We’re so beyond that possibility, however. The West is what will keep the league real interesting in the second half of the season as Phoenix (6-9) returned Australian Penny Taylor and struggling Minnesota (5-11) will get guard Chandi Jones back for practice this week, according to coach Suzie McConnell Serio.
The Lynx traded star Katie Smith and a draft pick for Jones, also acquiring Stacey Thomas and a first-round draft pick, last summer. But the 5-foot-9 guard has been out rehabilitating an ankle injury and then had arthroscopic surgery on her left knee on June 13. Her addition with rookie Seimone Augustus could make Minnesota more of the competitive team I thought they’d be to start the season.
The Storm (10-8), which collected its first three-game win streak of the season with a win over the Lynx on Saturday, are seeded third in the West. Seattle would play Houston in the first round, if the postseason were to start today, which is not in the Storm’s best interest. They just don’t match up well against the Comets.
It seems a first-rounder with Los Angeles would be ideal, since the Storm finally knows had to beat the team it once aspired to be like when Seattle joined the league in 2000. Seattle has six games against conference opponents after the break.
Digits
In case you missed it, it’s worth mentioning that the Storm set a new free throw record against Minnesota. Seattle was 21-for-21 from the line, surpassing the 8-for-8 mark set in 2002 against at KeyArena against Cleveland. The Storm has only been perfect from the line four times in franchise history.
Starters Lauren Jackson (6-for-6), Barbara Turner (5-for-5), Janell Burse (6-for-6) and Sue Bird (4-for-4) were the only players to shoot free throws on Saturday.
Taking a timeout
Thanks to everyone who has checked out the blog so far this season, especially for dealing with my sketchy definition of “daily.” I’m out on assignment until July 9, preparing for the All-Star game, so please come back then for more reports on the Storm and WNBA.

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