WNBA Playoffs: What to know ahead of the first round

A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces
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Following an abbreviated 22-game regular season, the 12 WNBA teams have been reduced to eight for the playoffs. The first round gets underway tonight. Here’s what you need to know:

How exactly do the WNBA playoffs work?

While the 2020 WNBA season was an unusual one in many ways, the 2020 playoff format is the same as previous years (the current playoff structure was introduced in 2016).

The top-seeded Las Vegas Aces and second-seeded Seattle Storm earned byes to the semifinal round thanks to their regular season results, while the third-ranked Los Angeles Sparks and fourth-ranked Minnesota Lynx earned byes to the second round.

Round one, which gets underway tonight, features two single elimination games as follows:

  • (8) Washington Mystics vs. (5) Phoenix Mercury
  • (7) Connecticut Sun) vs. (6) Chicago Sky

The winners of tonight’s games will be re-seeded ahead of round two, which is also single elimination. The lower seed will take on the Los Angeles Sparks, while the the higher seed will match up against the Minnesota Lynx. Those two second round games will take place this Thursday, September 17.

On Her Turf logoThe winners of the second round will move onto the best-of-five semifinal round, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday, September 20.

The finals, also best-of-five, will begin on Friday, October 2.

Just like the regular season, all playoff games will be played in “the Wubble” at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Which team is the favorite at this point?

At this point, the WNBA finals seem likely to come down to the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm.

The Las Vegas Aces are aiming to win their franchise’s first WNBA title (the franchise began in Utah during the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997 before moving to San Antonio in 2003 and then Las Vegas ahead of the 2018 season). The Aces will enter the semifinals having won six games in a row, including a top-seed-clinching 86-84 win against the Storm on Sunday. The Aces are led by A’ja Wilson, who is competing in her third WNBA season (all for the Aces) and is considered the current favorite for 2020 league MVP.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Storm should be a formidable opponent, especially if Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird are back in the lineup. Both players sat out the final two games of the regular season. Stewart, who missed the entire 2019 season with a torn Achilles tendon, was out due to tendinitis in her left foot. Bird, who missed 11 of the 22 regular season games this season, has been dealing with an injured left knee. While the Storm’s chances are certainly better with Stewart and Bird in the mix, the team also boasts one of the league’s deepest rosters.

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