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You wonder if the WNBA participants in the Summer Olympics feel like theyve just starred in a multi-episode run of the old Super Friends cartoon -- especially the romp-to-the-gold U.S. team members -- and now are headed to an episodic run of Survivor.The Americans kept the drama low and the quality of basketball high as they won their sixth consecutive Olympic tournament. But kudos also to Spain (silver) and Serbia (bronze) as they medaled in the Summer Games for the first time in womens hoops.Condolences to Australia, which is in transition mode as Penny Taylor will be joining Lauren Jackson in retirement. The Opals werent expecting their time in Rio de Janeiro to end in the quarterfinals, but it was another example of how competitive the Olympic tournament was -- aside from the U.S. dominance, that is.Now its back to the WNBA, which resumes play Friday. Los Angeles (21-3) and Minnesota (21-4) already have clinched playoff berths. Theyll focus on securing the top two spots, which come with a bye into the best-of-five semifinals in the WNBAs new playoff format.New York (18-8) is the only other team with a realistic shot of grabbing one of those two spots. Tina Charles leads the league in scoring and rebounding, and the Liberty are getting back guard Epiphanny Prince, who has been out all season with a knee injury. But unless the Sparks or Lynx have really lost their steam, its a long shot for the Liberty, who dont have any games left against L.A. or Minnesota.After those three teams, its a pretty big drop record-wise to what will be a free-for-all for the final five playoff berths. Other than 5-18 San Antonio, which is probably left to the role of spoiler, every team is still in the postseason hunt. Atlanta has the best record of that remaining group at 13-12.So as we enter the final three weeks of the regular season -- and close in on the career finishes of great players and fan favorites Taylor, Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash -- here are five questions to ponder.1. Will the Olympics help turn around the Mercury?Before the Rio Games, we examined the disappointing season?Phoenix has had. But the struggles of May, June and July wont matter much if the 10-14 Mercury can play up to their potential the rest of the way. (Admittedly, if has been a tormenting word for the Merc this summer.)Four players bring Olympic medals back to Phoenix, with Diana Taurasis and Brittney Griners golds, a silver for Spains Marta Xargay and a bronze for Serbias Sonja Petrovic.Taurasi had an outstanding Olympics, leading the U.S. team in scoring (15.6 points per game) and minutes played (24.3 per game). She was deadly from behind the arc (33 of 57, 57.9 percent) and played with trademark Taurasi zest and leadership.The latter part might be what most excites Mercury fans. Taurasis WNBA stats this season have been very good (18.9 PPG, 4.3 APG), but she hasnt always seemed ... well, Taurasi-like on court.As for Griner, she tied with Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles to lead the Americans in rebounding (5.6 RPG) and was the top shot-blocker with 11. Griner averaged 9.8 points per game, third best on the team.In WNBA play this season, Griner?is averaging 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, numbers down a bit from her previous two years. She needed the energy jolt the Olympic seemed to give her.Competitive consistency has been a thorny issue with Phoenix this season, but the potential is still there for a big finish. Lets put it this way: If the Mercury close out the regular season strong, they could be very scary in a one-game elimination format, which is now in place for the early rounds.2. Can Seattles young guns get the Storm back in the playoffs?Breanna Stewart turns 22 on Saturday. Jewell Loyd doesnt turn 23 until October and tweeted Monday with mock irritation that shed been asked twice that day if she was older than 15. The Storms two super babies still look like kids, but they dont play that way.Gold medalist Stewart averaged a very efficient 8.1 points while playing 10.9 minutes per game for the United States in Rio. She is averaging 19.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for Seattle and has the 2016 WNBA rookie of the year award already locked up.Loyd won that honor last season and now is second on the Storm in scoring at 16.5 points per game, while also getting 3.0 assists per game.Seattle is tied with Washington at 9-15 for the eighth-best record in the league. For the Storm to get back to the playoffs after a two-year absence, theyll need a strong closing surge from Stewart and Loyd.Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that Sue Birds knee injury at the Olympics wasnt serious enough to keep her out of the gold-medal game. Shes having a very good WNBA season, too, leading the league with 6.0 assists per game. The Storm point guard has done so much to help Seattles two rising stars mature, and shell continue to push them and her team to try to get back where Bird is used to being: the postseason.3. Can the Mystics salvage their season?No team needed the Olympic break more than the Mystics, who went into a tailspin and lost all seven of their games in July. Yet they are 9-15 and still battling to make the playoffs.Emma Meesseman (15.7 PPG) and Tayler Hill (14.7 PPG) are scoring well; its a breakthrough for Hill in her third full season in the league and fourth overall.But overall, this isnt a strong offensive team -- only San Antonios 72.2 points-per-game average is lower than Washingtons 79.6 -- so its hard to see the Mystics getting to the postseason if they cant clamp down more defensively in their remaining 10 games. Washington is allowing its foes 83.3 points per game.?It should help the Mystics to get back veteran forward LaToya Sanders, who missed the first part of the season while with the Turkish national team.4. Who has more on her shoulders: Elena or Angel?They both have plenty. But Chicagos Elena Delle Donne might have a heavier load to carry to get her team to the postseason because Atlantas Angel McCoughtry -- who has done a ton of heavy lifting in her WNBA career -- seems to have a little more help this year.Both players came off the bench during the Olympics and did their jobs well, providing energy for the U.S. team. Now, they go back to being their WNBA teams respective superstars.Delle Donne is the reigning WNBA MVP and is averaging 21.2 points per game for the Sky, who are 11-13. Cappie Pondexter and Allie Quigley are the other Chicago players who are scoring in double figures. Those two, Courtney Vandersloot and Jamierra Faulkner provide a solid perimeter core, but the Skys ability to score consistently inside other than with Delle Donne remains a concern.McCoughtry is averaging 18.2 points per game for the 13-12 Dream, who have three other players scoring in double figures: Tiffany Hayes, Elizabeth Williams and Layshia Clarendon. The Dream initially thought in July they might have lost veteran post player Sancho Lyttle for the season to a foot injury, but she is expected back. Her 8.5 rebounds per game are especially very valuable to the Dream.5. Who will be the No. 1 seed?The Sparks and the Lynx have split their two meetings thus far, with each winning on the others home court. They have one matchup left: Sept. 6 at Los Angeles.The Sparks havent played at Staples Center since July 10. They ended the first part of the season with five straight road games and open the second part with four more on the road. When they finally return to Staples Sept. 4, nearly two months will have passed between home games -- which is ridiculous.However, that means the Sparks will play five of their last six at home, so that might help down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Lynx have nine games left, and only one of their final five is at home.The teams were total contrasts in terms of the Olympics. Los Angeles had just one player competing: reserve guard Ana Dabovic for Serbia. Meanwhile, it seemed like everyone with the Lynx except mascot Prowl was in Brazil.OK, slight exaggeration. But with four starters -- Moore, Fowles, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus -- on the U.S. team along with coach Cheryl Reeve as one of Geno Auriemmas assistants, there was a lot of Lynx green and blue amid the American red, white and blue.All the Lynx players performed well in the Olympics, but Moore deserves a special shout-out. She was spectacular, which is not new. But watching her work so hard setting up others and defending -- she led the Americans with 34 assists and 16 steals -- while still being the second-leading scorer (12.0 PPG) and tying for the lead in rebounding (5.6 RPG) epitomizes why U.S. womens basketball has been unbeatable: truly great players happily putting the team first.Will the effort expended for the Olympics end up costing the Lynx a little in fatigue? Will the Sparks be extra motivated for a title because they dont have any 2016 gold medals among them?The Lynx are three-time champions trying to win back-to-back titles, which no WNBA team has done since the Sparks in 2001-02. How can you pick against Minnesota? But ... this is a different Sparks team than weve seen in a long, long time. They dont just have talent, they have resolve and chemistry and willpower.Its going to be quite a finish. Cheap Custom Islanders Jersey . At a news conference Tuesday where it was thought that the fiery Schallibaum may be shown the door after a dismal finish to the Major League Soccer season, team president Joey Saputo said no decision has been made on whether the Swiss Volcano will be back in 2014. Wholesale Custom Islanders Shirts . -- The Missouri Tigers might not have a roster full of superstars. http://www.customislandersjersey.com/custom-denis-potvin-jersey-large-78i.html . Newcastle dominated in the early stages but City weathered the storm and then raised its game in extra time. Negredo broke the deadlock from close range after a simple move in the 99th minute before Dzeko took the ball round goalkeeper Tim Krul to seal the victory in the 105th. Custom Islanders Jersey China . "Hes going to have hip surgery on Jan. 7, and hell be expected to rehabilitate for four to six months beyond that," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said Friday in an interview. Authentic Custom Islanders Jersey . Brett Kulak and Jackson Houck of the Vancouver Giants were each charged with assault causing bodily harm on Aug. 18, according to the B.C. court services. CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made all the right moves in the previous playoff round. Sticking with Joe Blanton backfired in the NL Championship Series opener.Blanton gave up a tiebreaking grand slam to pinch-hitter Miguel Montero and a homer to Dexter Fowler on consecutive pitches in the eighth inning Saturday night, dooming the Dodgers to an 8-4 loss against the Chicago Cubs.Well be ready tomorrow, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. This game gave us a lot of confidence. We know we can beat them.Roberts was praised for his aggressive pitching moves in the Division Series clincher at Washington, where closer Kenley Jansen was summoned in the seventh and ace starter Clayton Kershaw earned a save.But against the Cubs, a big decision backfired.Gonzalez had just tied the score in the eighth with a two-out, two-run single on one of the 100 mph-plus darts from Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.Blanton relieved to start the bottom half and gave up Ben Zobrists leadoff double. Addison Russell grounded to third, and Roberts had Blanton intentionally walk left-handed-hitting Jason Heyward to bring up righty Javier Baez for a righty-against-righty matchup.Youve got to walk Heyward with the open base, Roberts said.Baez flied to right. Lefty Chris Coghlan hit for righty David Ross, and Roberts decided to intentionally walk him to load the bases -- bringing up Chapmans spot in the batting order.Obviously, Im looking at the card and I see Chapmans still in the game, Roberts said. I felt good for us to win the game, if we could get out of that inning.Cubs manager Joe Maddon responded by sending up the left-handed-hitting Montero. Roberts chose to stick with Blanton -- Chicago would have batted righty Willson Contreras if the Dodgers brought in a lefty.I trust Joe. Ive trusted him all year long. Hes been great for us, and he got ahead 0-2 and left a pitch up, Roberts said. It just didnt work out. But it was -- our guys fought. It was a well-played game.MMontero fouled off a slider and swung past another.ddddddddddddBlanton came back with yet another slider on the 0-2 pitch. Montero drove it about halfway up the right-field bleachers.Bases loaded, I was going to go with my strength, Blanton said. I faced him earlier in the year. I kind of did the same thing and had success. Got ahead and tried to bury a slider and I didnt and got lucky on that one, actually. Probably the same pitch as the next one, or very close. Both backup sliders. Just didnt execute. Especially 0-2, cant do that in that situation.Montero took a curtain call, and the crowd was still roaring when Fowler sent a hanging curveball 362 feet to right.Kershaw will try to tie the best-of-seven series Sunday night for the Dodgers, coming off a heavy workload in the NLDS. The three-time Cy Young Award winner pitched in all three Los Angeles wins and earned a two-out save in the decisive Game 5 on Thursday.That was one of several unconventional moves by Roberts, who pushed Jansen to a career-high 51 pitches before Kershaw came to the rescue.This time, the Dodgers played from behind most of the night.Kenta Maeda gave up three runs and four hits before pinch-hitter Andre Ethier hit a solo homer batting for the pitcher in the fifth.Los Angeles managed just one run and four hits in six innings against Jon Lester before tying it in the eighth.Trailing 3-1, the Dodgers loaded the bases with none out when Andrew Toles beat Kris Bryant to third after he fielded Justin Turners infield single.Chapman came in to relieve Pedro Strop and struck out Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig before Gonzalez lined a 102 mph fastball up the middle.If it was a sloppy game and we didnt play or compete, you get a little bit more of a sour face, Roberts said. But we played hard. We played well. And we do have Kersh going tomorrow, so thats a good thing. ' ' '

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