Commissioner’s Cup implications loom large over Friday slate
There is a good chance history will me made today, as both the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm have the opportunity to clinch their entry into the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup midseason championship.
Starting in the East with the path of lesser resistance, the Sun control their own destiny in tonight’s matchup with the off-the-court troubled Atlanta Dream. When teammate scuffles occur, whether verbally or physically, it is safe to assume that there is less than stellar play on the court, which is evident by the Dream’s 2-9 record in their last 11 games.
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With their best scorer Chennedy Carter suspended, it is hard to envision the Sun not handling an inferior opponent with ease (if we forget they just lost to the measly 2-win Indiana Fever earlier this week).
If the Dream do pull off the upset behind a possible Courtney Williams revenge game, Connecticut still has options. They can still secure a Cup berth with a win over the New York Liberty on Sunday or a Chicago Sky loss to the Washington Mystics this weekend.
In other words, it is Curt Miller’s spot to lose, and behind MVP frontrunner Jonquel Jones (debatable) and Most Improved Player frontrunner Brionna Jones (not debatable), I think they will hold on.
The West is a different story. Yes, the Seattle Storm are in a similar win-and-in situation, but their opponent is the much more formidable Phoenix Mercury, who just days ago took the Aces to overtime and beat them in Las Vegas.
It was a crushing blow for the Aces’ own Commissioner’s Cup hopes, as they now need two Seattle losses against the Mercury coupled with a win tonight over the Minnesota Lynx and a future victory against the Dallas Wings just to most likely lose the points differential tie-breaker.
Minnesota is in the same position, where if both games go their way tonight they will need to beat the LA Sparks to move to 7-3 in the standings, but will have a massive gap in point diff. The Lynx have been on a tear, however, and have not showed any signs of slowing down.
The Aces and Lynx will be hoping to see the same Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith that combined for 60 points earlier this week and dare I say may finally be finding a groove. If they can play at even 75% of that level then Seattle should start to get worried.
A reminded of what is at stake: the Commissioner’s Cup is a one game midseason tournament where a team’s inclusion is based on their record in 10 conference games. Not only is there satisfaction in winning the award, but massive monetary benefits. The winning team will earn $30,000 dollars for all of their players, which for many rookie-deal and minimum contract athletes is a 50% increase to their entire year’s salary. Even the losing team will net a cool $10,000 per player, still a significant chunk that can be guaranteed just by making it to the game.
The Commissioner’s Cup championship game will be played on August 12 once players have returned from the Olympic break.