The WNBA Finals are in full swing and the league is about to find out which teams will be playing in the finals. We have a full playoff schedule for you, so let’s get into it!
The wnba champions 2020 is the final destination for teams that have made it to the WNBA Finals. The first round of the playoffs began on May 18th with a total of 22 teams competing.
2:45 a.m. ET
ESPN.com’s Mechelle Voepel
- Mechelle Voepel is an espnW reporter that covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports. Voepel has been with ESPN since 1996 and has covered women’s basketball since 1984.
One playoff spot remained to be secured when the WNBA regular season ends on Sunday. The Connecticut Sun, Las Vegas Aces, Minnesota Lynx, and Seattle Storm are the four teams that will receive byes to begin the playoffs.
Seeds 5-8 play single-elimination first-round games under the league’s new system, which was implemented in 2016. The victors will play the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds in single-elimination second-round games. In a best-of-five semifinal, the victors will play the top two seeds.
The Sun and Aces, being the top two seeds, have the benefit of a double-bye into the semifinals, meaning they don’t have to worry about losing one game and being eliminated.
Every winner has been a 1 or 2 seed so far in this playoff format: the No. 2 Los Angeles Sparks in 2016, the No. 1 Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017, the No. 1 Seattle Sounders in 2018, the No. 1 Washington Mystics in 2019, and the No. 2 Seattle Sounders in 2020.
There are no games scheduled for Saturday. Here’s how things stand heading into Sunday and the last five games before the start of the WNBA playoffs. (Check back then, and keep an eye on the WNBA standings, as the playoff situation continues to evolve.)
Which clubs have already qualified for the playoffs?
Seven of the eight available seats have already been filled. The Phoenix Mercury Phoenix, Chicago Sky, and Dallas Wings, in addition to the aforementioned top four seeds, have all qualified for the playoffs.
The Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever have been eliminated from the playoffs.
What exactly is going on at the top of the leaderboard?
The Aces (23-8) won the No. 2 seed after a dominating 103-70 win against Chicago on Friday. It’s the second year in a row that they’ve earned the double-bye. They accomplished it last year despite guard Kelsey Plum’s Achilles injury. She may be awarded both Sixth Woman of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year this season.
Plum stated of the 2021 season, “It feels so wonderful to be back with the squad.” “It’s difficult to see; I feel like I could have helped out [last year].”
On Sept. 11, Connecticut (25-6) had already clinched the No. 1 seed. The Sun will play Atlanta on Sunday in the last game of the regular season, aiming for their 14th victory in a row. The Aces face the Phoenix Suns (3 p.m. ET, ABC).
Neither game has any playoff implications, but Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said the Aces want to get some playing time for center Liz Cambage, who has been out since Aug. 28 due to the COVID-19 protocol.
“Getting her back on the court is the most important thing,” Laimbeer added. “It will take a long time for you to become game-conditioned. However, you must begin somewhere.”
What about the third and fourth seeds?
Sylvia Fowles led the Lynx to a first-round bye in the WNBA playoffs with 21 points and 10 rebounds on Friday. Getty Images/Jordan Johnson/NBAE
Minnesota and Seattle are the origins of these seeds, but the sequence is unknown.
Minnesota defeated Indiana on Friday, improving to 21-10, with to another big game from veteran Sylvia Fowles (21 points and 10 rebounds). They play Washington on Sunday to finish the season. Seattle, the reigning WNBA champion, won over Phoenix on Friday to complete the regular season at 21-11.
The Lynx will be 22-10 and earn the third spot if they win on Sunday. By virtue of their regular-season tiebreaker against Minnesota, the Storm will be seeded third if they lose and finish 21-11.
Jewell Loyd of the Storm, who scored 37 points in a masterful effort on Friday, said it was on her mind because a victory would keep Seattle out of the first round. And, with Storm forward Breanna Stewart out with a foot ailment, the more time Seattle can buy in the hopes of a quick return, the better.
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The fact that the Storm are through with the regular season and will not be playing on Sunday also helps.
“When you consider what a few extra days can do for Breanna Stewart and our brains, we’ll take a few of days off and come back at it,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “I believe the past several weeks have been particularly tough for this group. It’s been a roller coaster ride. When we take some time to rest and recharge, it helps us get our minds, emotions, and bodies in the right place to make a playoff push.”
What else has been decided?
Phoenix (19-12) is currently the No. 5 seed after Minnesota’s win on Friday, and will host a first-round playoff game against an opponent to be decided. The Mercury played without Diana Taurasi again on Friday, but they’re still hopeful she’ll be back for the playoffs.
The only thing on the line for Chicago (15-16) this weekend was its final record, since the Sky had already clinched the No. 6 seed. They now know who they will face in the first round: Dallas (13-18). When Washington fell to New York on Friday, the Wings were given the No. 7 seed.
Jewell Loyd of Seattle matched the WNBA record for most points in a quarter with 22 in the first quarter of Friday’s win against Phoenix. Getty Images/Joshua Huston/NBAE
What about the final position?
The last playoff spot is up for grabs between Washington (12-19), Los Angeles (12-19), and the New York Liberty (12-20).
If the Mystics win their last game against Minnesota on Sunday, they will earn the berth. That would put them at 13-19, and even if the Sparks win and tie, Washington will have the tiebreaker.
Los Angeles hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2011, and the Sparks have only missed the playoffs four times in their existence, going back to the league’s inception in 1997. The Sparks need to defeat Dallas on Sunday and Washington to lose in order to reach the playoffs this season.
The Liberty finished the regular season with a win against Washington on Friday, and now they await the results on Sunday. New York will earn a playoff spot if both Washington and Los Angeles lose and all three teams end with a record of 12-20. The Liberty would have the best head-to-head record of the three, with a 3-2 record, while Washington would be 3-3 and Los Angeles would be 2-3.
Schedule for the playoffs
Thursday, Sept. 23: First round (single-game elimination) No. 8 vs. No. 5 No. 7 vs. No. 6
In the second round (single-game elimination) TBD at No. 3 TBD at No. 4 on Sunday, Sept. 26
Semifinals of the conference (best of five) Tuesday, September 28th, is the first game. Game 2 will take place on Thursday, September 30. Game 3 will take place on Sunday, October 3rd. Game 4 will take place on Wednesday, October 6th. Game 5 will take place on Friday, October 8th.
Finals of the Women’s National Basketball Association (best of five) Game 1 is on Sunday, October 10th, and Game 2 is on Wednesday, October 13th. Game 3 will take place on Friday, October 15th. Game 4 is on Sunday, October 17th, and Game 5 is on Tuesday, October 19th.
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