NEW YORK (AP) With Minnesota and Los Angeles running away from the rest of the league, the new playoff format the WNBA put in place this year couldn't have come at a better time.
The league changed its postseason structure, eliminating conference affiliations and is seeding the eight best teams overall. If the season ended Tuesday, the undefeated Lynx and Sparks would have the top two seeds and wouldn't face each other potentially until the WNBA Finals. The pair plays for the first time this season on Tuesday and sit atop The Associated Press WNBA power poll for the fifth straight week.
''I think they studied the history of the league and saw to this point that the majority of the strength of the league was in the Western Conference,'' Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler said Monday. ''Not that it was every year, but more times than not it has been.''
The West has had the top two records in nine of the WNBA's 19 previous seasons, including in three of the past five.
''Everybody is in support to have a quality playoffs and championship,'' Agler added. ''Everyone wants to have the top two teams play for the championship.''
POWER POLL: Minnesota and Los Angeles still lead the way. Washington and Dallas made biggest move up poll this week climbing to 5 and 6, respectively. A look at this week's WNBA poll:
1. Minnesota (12-0): The Lynx continue to roll and have their biggest test of the season against Los Angeles.
2. Los Angeles (11-0): Two more victories have Sparks off to best start in franchise history.
3. New York (8-4): Riding four-game winning streak and have busy week ahead with three more games. Will honor their inaugural team on Sunday during game against Phoenix.4.
4. Atlanta (8-4): Face New York in a battle for third place in the WNBA before embarking on three-game road trip.
5. Washington (6-7): You'd think having three home games would be a good thing for the Mystics, but they are 1-5 on their home court this season.
6. Dallas (5-7): Skylar Diggins was in starting lineup for first time this season; Wings playing better.
7. Chicago (5-7): Had unsuccessful cross-country road trip. Now try to end three-game skid.
8. Indiana (5-8): Fever are winless in three Tamika Catchings' legacy tour stops.
9. Phoenix (4-8): After a winless week, the Mercury embark on a three-game road trip.
10. Seattle (4-9): It was a rough week for the young Storm as they were swept in their three games.
11. Connecticut (3-10): Weren't far off from going 3-0 last week; head west for games in Seattle and Los Angeles
12. San Antonio (2-9): Will retire former guard Becky Hammon's jersey on Saturday night; though they could use her in the lineup.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tina Charles earned AP player of the week honors after helping New York go 3-0 last week. She averaged 28.7 points and 8 rebounds. She had a career-high 32 points against Connecticut on Thursday night. Other players receiving votes were Nneka Ogwumike and Emma Meesseman.
BONUS BASKETBALL: There were two triple-overtime games last week and two others went one extra period. There have already been nine games that have gone into OT this season which is on pace to break the league record of 25 set in the 2009 season, according to Elias.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tuesday's matchup between the Sparks and Lynx marks the first time unbeaten teams from the WNBA, NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL have met with each squad having at least 10 wins with no losses and no ties according to Elias.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Sparks at Lynx, 8 p.m. ET on Friday night. The second half of a home-and-home series between the two best teams in the league.