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Fever, Mystics continue climb

Welcome to what could well be a full week of celebration in Phoenix. The Mercury have won 10 games in a row, and have two more contests at home -- including Tuesday's ESPN2-televised meeting with Washington -- before hosting the All-Star Game on Saturday (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET).

Week 9 Power Rankings

1. Phoenix (16-3; last week: No. 1)

The Mercury beat Seattle, Chicago and San Antonio last week -- the latter a 90-61 clinic on Sunday that left the Stars seeing stars. Phoenix shut down San Antonio's starters while Diana Taurasi focused offensively on giving her teammates great looks at the basket. She finished with nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists. At this point, we're not sure what it will take to cool off the Mercury.

2. Atlanta (15-5; No. 2)

The Dream also went 3-0 last week, and Angel McCoughtry continues to make a strong case as an MVP candidate. Chicago pushed Atlanta to overtime Sunday, but McCoughtry saved the day with a season-high 33 points. Tiffany Hayes made the winning free throws and continues to be an under-the-radar gem in the WNBA. The Dream have just one game this week, Wednesday at New York.

3. Minnesota (16-6; No. 3)

Be sure to watch Nike's Derek Jeter tribute ad for the cameo by Maya Moore. The Lynx star -- along with McCoughtry and Taurasi -- is going to make this year's MVP voting very hard. After being upset at New York on July 6, the Lynx responded with three consecutive wins in which Moore totaled 89 points, 29 rebounds and nine assists. A tip of the hoodie to you, Maya.

4. Indiana (10-11; No. 5)

Tamika Catchings has been back in action for just a week, but already has a game-winning basket (at Tulsa last Tuesday) and quickly re-established herself as the Fever's primary threat. Indiana won twice but fell to Eastern Conference leader Atlanta last week. On Tuesday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET), the Fever host a Sparks team trying to start its first actual winning streak. Indy also hosts fading Chicago on Thursday.

5. Los Angeles (9-11; No. 8)

Nneka and her Sparks prevailed in the Battle of the Ogwumikes on Sunday at Connecticut. That made two victories in a row for Los Angeles; now can they make it three? With all their pieces back in place, it's time for the Sparks to consistently play up to their talent level. Along with visiting the Fever on Tuesday, they host the Mystics on Thursday.

6. Washington (9-12; No. 12)

And speaking of the Mystics, this week they make a big jump up from the basement of the power rankings. But it will be tough for them to stay in place. They're in the midst of five consecutive road games before the All-Star Game. Washington won at Chicago and Tulsa last week, but the degree of difficulty goes up this week with visits to Phoenix and Los Angeles. Keep an eye on Emma Meesseman, who's in her second WNBA season and has scored in double digits the last seven games for Washington.

7. Seattle (9-14; No. 10)

The Storm took their medicine last week from the West's best teams -- losing by 20 points to the Mercury and 17 to the Lynx. But in between they got a spirit-boosting win at San Antonio on Friday, led by a season-high 19 points from Shekinna Stricklen. As befits the Storm's lousy luck this year, though, Stricklen suffered a neck injury Sunday at Minnesota. After an evaluation at the hospital, the former Tennessee standout was able to fly home with her team, which has just one game this week: Tuesday versus Connecticut.

8. San Antonio (11-11; No. 4)

The Stars fell back four spots in the power rankings this week, mostly because of the disappointing home loss to Seattle. They did beat New York last week, though, and their loss to Phoenix is what everybody else is doing against the Mercury too. Kayla McBride is having some expected rookie ups and downs. She scored 30 points against the Liberty, but only four against the Mercury. The Stars visit increasingly desperate Tulsa this week.

9. New York (7-11; 3o. 12)

Coach Bill Laimbeer continues to tinker with the Liberty's roster, including reuniting via trade with old friend/foe Swin Cash and sending DeLisha Milton-Jones to Atlanta. Being so busy when it comes to transactions is not a good thing; it shows that Laimbeer still hasn't found what he's looking for. When both were still in Detroit, Laimbeer and Cash had a falling out, but apparently bygones are bygones. Cash, who was little-used in Atlanta, and New York both could use a boost. The Liberty lost twice last week -- to San Antonio and L.A. -- but stayed at No. 9.

10. Connecticut (9-13; No. 6)

Los Angeles exposed the Sun's youth, inadequate interior defense and lack of depth in a 90-64 loss at Mohegan Sun on Sunday. Having lost five of their last six games, the Sun are not in great shape for their upcoming stretch, playing six of their next seven on the road. The good news for Connecticut is Chiney Ogwumike continues to bolster her credentials for the rookie of the year award; she's now averaging 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds.

11. Chicago (8-13; No. 7)

Seriously, can the Sky catch a break? Elena Delle Donne remains out with Lyme disease, yet Chicago was still competitive in all three of its losses last week. Chicago fell by seven points to Washington on Wednesday in front of a Sky-record crowd of 16,402, and really made Phoenix work for a six-point win Friday. Then another kick in the gut: a two-point overtime loss Sunday at Atlanta. The Sky just have the short trip to Indiana this week.

12. Tulsa (7-14; No. 11)

And talk about needing a good break ... the Shock continue to find new agonies. How do you lose consecutive games at home on layups with 5 seconds left and by the identical score? Unfortunately, the Shock know that answer after falling 78-76 to both Connecticut (July 5) and Indiana (July 8). After hanging tough but losing to Minnesota 91-85 on Thursday, Tulsa looked flattened in a 17-point loss to Washington on Saturday. The Shock have back-to-back daytime games at Minnesota and against San Antonio this week. They are due good fortune, but that's no guarantee they'll get it.