Which teams maintain momentum with the WNBA playoffs beautiful round the nook? Which games will maintain the most impact on the playoff bustle in the final week of the 2021 WNBA traditional season?
Six of eight postseason berths are locked up. But teams shall be jockeying for seeds and the final two playoff spots lawful thru the Sept. 19 traditional-season finales. Our panel — ESPN’s Kelly Cohen, Doug Kezirian, Dana Lee, Kevin Pelton and Mechelle Voepel — discusses which teams may possibly well well tag byes in the playoffs, who may possibly well well meet in the WNBA Finals and which squads maintain what it takes to drag an upset in the first or 2nd rounds.
If the season ended at this time time, the Dallas Wings (12-17) and New York Liberty (11-18) would clinch the final two playoff bids. But the Washington Mystics (10-18) are beautiful one-half sport out of eighth enviornment, and the Los Angeles Sparks (10-18) are one sport in the support of the LIberty.
The Connecticut Sun, who on Thursday clinched a double bye and are utilizing an 11-sport successful inch, proceed to manual the manner, conserving a two-sport lead over the 2nd-enviornment Las Vegas Aces.
So buckle up and support a conclude gape on the WNBA standings as the countdown to the traditional-season attain line nears. The 2021 WNBA playoffs initiating Sept. 23.
With two playoff berths mute up for grabs and seeds removed from role, which teams, storylines and games are you specializing in with per week to dash in the traditional season?
Mechelle Voepel: Momentum can commerce speedily in the WNBA and then reverse all over again beautiful as speedily. So which teams among the many 5- thru 8-seeds that pick up and support momentum over the next week-plus shall be of hobby.
Or no longer it is no longer that the tip of the standings is no longer moving. But the two teams that pick up the double bye and robotically advance to the semifinals may possibly well well no longer be viewed for a bit whereas as the first and 2nd rounds play out. The 5-8 seeds maintain the hardest odds of developing it to the WNBA Finals, but they’ve the possibility to disrupt issues in regard to what semifinals matchups we are able to select up.
Because the final week of June, the exact teams that the Minnesota Lynx maintain misplaced to are Connecticut (twice) and Las Vegas. The Lynx now maintain three consecutive games in opposition to the Indiana Fever and then attain at Washington. So Minnesota has a handsome lawful chance to climb into the tip four, especially since the Seattle Storm and the Phoenix Mercury — who maintain received 10 in a row — mute maintain to play each a range of. And even though the Lynx don’t attain that, they may possibly well mute mute snatch some momentum into the postseason.
I mediate all of us wish to scrutinize how exact Seattle appears to be like to be in closing the traditional season. The Storm maintain had uneven outcomes post-smash, and now we will gaze how healthy and assured they are. Seattle finishes with Los Angeles and Phoenix, with the latter matchup catching our gape additionally because we beautiful can’t know what number of more times we maintain got to scrutinize Sue Rooster and Diana Taurasi on court collectively.
Doug Kezirian: The playoff push is clearly the storyline that resonates most. The WNBA has separated itself from the NBA with a playoff structure that rewards elevated seeds. Thus, we attain no longer gaze load administration or disinterested play. The head teams are all making a push and attempting to attain a bye or two, which makes for some compelling games down the stretch.
I am additionally maintaining an gape on the Fever. For any sports actions bettor paying attention, this team has been an absolute money machine since mid-June. Indiana has covered the level unfold in 11 of its final 14 games. That’s spectacular, excited by the implications are supposed to be round 50%. The Fever are determining some issues and outperforming expectations, which is in particular lawful to scrutinize for a team that started the season by dropping 16 of its first 17 games.
Kevin Pelton: As attention-grabbing as the races are for third, fourth and fifth, indirectly the ideally suited part in what’s happening to occur in the WNBA playoffs is who gets the 2nd double bye on condition that the two teams that robotically advance to the semifinals maintain long gone 9-1 since the structure commerce. Las Vegas took a extra special step in direction of locking up the No. 2 seed with Wednesday’s snatch over Minnesota. As lengthy as the Aces snatch their next two games (home in opposition to Dallas and at the Chicago Sky), they can clinch forward of their traditional-season finale at Phoenix.
Kelly Cohen: I am excited to scrutinize how the tip teams conclude out the season. The Aces wrap up the traditional season with three extra special games in opposition to teams that desperately need wins: Dallas, Chicago and Phoenix. Can Las Vegas raise its momentum into the playoffs, or did the Aces top too soon? Defending champion Seattle, which has struggled offensively — specifically from 3-level vary — since the Olympic smash, is lovely 5-5 in its final 10 games. The Storm maintain two games left: at Los Angeles and in opposition to Phoenix. Can the Storm pick up in some truthful-tuning forward of the postseason arrives?
Dana Lee: I am here for the total final-minute chaos, and since most of the crew has already addressed the tip half of the league, I am attracted to what Washington does. Currently, the Wings and Liberty are slotted at seventh and eighth, respectively, in the standings. The Mystics are ideally suited half a sport support from New York, which is on a six-sport dropping inch. Or no longer it is completely a bid the Mystics maintain confronted forward of. Final season, the team beautiful eked into the playoffs, all whereas lacking Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles and Natasha Cloud. Charles returned to the lineup leisurely final week, and despite scoring ideally suited four points in a loss in opposition to the Storm, the worn stays the team’s ideally suited chance to attain a fifth straight playoffs.
The two most up-to-the-minute teams in the league meet Saturday when Phoenix faces Connecticut. Might presumably presumably or no longer or no longer it is a preview of the WNBA Finals?
Kezirian: Give these two squads credit score for cranking it up currently, but let’s no longer miss out on the friendly reminder the Aces and Storm each provided in their latest wins. Las Vegas handled the Lynx and did so without Liz Cambage, who is in COVID-19 protocols. The Storm indirectly lived up to their likely and dropped 105 points in a blowout snatch. Presumably they’ve beautiful been bored by the traditional season and anticipating the playoffs?
Based fully on the making a bet market, the Storm, Aces and Sun are tri-favorites, with each having championship odds a bit shorter than 3-to-1. The Mercury are mute regarded as longshots at 12-1, and that is the explanation because they likely won’t pick up the advantage of two byes, but they may possibly well pick up one. Or no longer it is worth noting that no longer ideally suited has Phoenix received 10 straight, but entering Wednesday’s sport, after they achieved without Brittney Griner (out for non-public causes) and Diana Taurasi (ankle), the Mercury led the WNBA in offensive score and accumulate score since the Olympic smash. The Mercury may possibly well well very neatly attain the Finals and face the Sun, who maintain regarded great since Jonquel Jones returned. The one-two punch of her and DeWanna Bonner is handsome particular. Nonetheless, the Aces and Storm are mute elite, and Minnesota’s ideally suited is as lawful as someone’s. Or no longer it is shaping up to be a extra special playoffs.
Pelton: Or no longer it is worth maintaining in mind how favorably the agenda has broken for Phoenix. By hook or by crook the Mercury maintain received 10 in a row whereas beating ideally suited regarded as one of the most six teams that has clinched a playoff plight (Chicago, the likely 6-seed). Even after we adjust for opponent, Phoenix has mute achieved higher on this stretch, but over the course of the season the Mercury’s level differential is no longer in the same ballpark as the tip three teams Doug mentioned. They’re preferred for lawful goal.
Voepel: It is probably going you’ll maybe maybe also mute be so impressed with what we maintain viewed from the Sun and Mercury post-Olympic smash. We mentioned a scenario final week about the Sun’s lack of depth, but they accumulate no longer seem all for it. The Mercury’s comeback victory Wednesday over the Atlanta Dream without Griner or Taurasi was as soon as a testament to their skill to dig deep.
That acknowledged, Las Vegas and Seattle are lawful there, too, and Minnesota stays in the combine as neatly. I lean a bit more in direction of Connecticut-Las Vegas as the favourite for the WNBA Finals matchup, however the true fact that we legitimately can gaze just a few a range of probabilities is thrilling.
Cohen: I am most attracted to what we are able to even be ready to grab far off from Saturday’s matchup. There may possibly be unquestionably more to attain for the Mercury, who — as Kevin identified — maintain overwhelmed ideally suited regarded as one of the most teams earlier than them in the standings all over their 10-sport successful inch. Phoenix had to in fact work to beat Atlanta on Wednesday without Griner and Taurasi. So a snatch Saturday may possibly well well in fact put the leisure of the league on scrutinize that the Mercury are natty-sizzling at precisely the lawful time of the season.
I am additionally intrigued about the offensive and defensive matchup. We know the Sun maintain the exact defense in the league — wow, are they relaxing to mediate about. But the surging Mercury rotten fourth in the WNBA at 82.4 PPG. Griner is predicted to be support after a one-sport absence, and Taurasi may possibly well well return as neatly. Something’s got to give on Saturday evening. Will or no longer or no longer it is Phoenix’s offense or Connecticut’s defense?
Lee: Currently, FiveThirtyEight gives the Sun a 72% chance of reaching the finals, whereas the Mercury are ideally suited 17% likely to maintain it that far. The Aces, Lynx and Storm all maintain elevated odds. Produce with that what you will. Or no longer it is no longer an insult to the Mercury, who maintain role a franchise file with this 10-sport successful inch, but a trademark of how lawful the a range of three teams are. If Taurasi misses Saturday’s sport, it shall be exhausting to name this a lawful preview of a likely Finals matchup given how needed she is to the Mercury’s success.
Dallas and New York meet Saturday. Within the present standings, they’re each sure for the playoffs. Which team has a smarter chance of successful a postseason sport?
Kezirian: I attain no longer give both a chance in opposition to whichever team ends up with the fifth seed, but I can gaze Dallas upsetting Chicago, assuming that is the scheme it shakes out. The Sky lean on Candace Parker a extra special deal, so the Wings completely maintain sufficient firepower if Parker is human or they beautiful play in fact neatly. Dallas has shown some exact flashes with Arike Ogunbowale main the manner.
For whatever goal, I always acquire myself upset in New York. Presumably I beautiful predict too extra special from 2020 No. 1 draft purchase Sabrina Ionescu and got teased along with her great buzzer-beater in the opener. At the tip of the day, I mediate her puny quickness inhibits her sport too extra special at this stage. Consequently, the Liberty stumble on disjointed on offense far too normally and their core avid gamers don’t in fact seem to take dangle of their roles or how all of them match collectively. The Liberty maintain misplaced nine of 10 for a goal. I beautiful can no longer gaze them all of a unexpected flipping the swap and successful a postseason sport.
Pelton: I am with Doug; I mediate the Liberty are first-round fodder if they attain maintain the playoffs by virtue of Los Angeles and Washington being unable to grab good thing about New York’s proceed. Amazingly, the Liberty’s minus-7.2 level differential ranks 11th of the 12 WNBA teams, in the support of seven-21 Atlanta (-5.4). Within the intervening time, Dallas’ minus-0.4 differential is higher than the Wings’ 12-17 file and would generally translate into something more take care of 14 wins.
Cohen: Every the Wings and the Liberty were on the battle bus since coming back from the Olympic smash, with the latter having received beautiful as soon as in their final 10 games.
I in fact maintain consistently praised the Wings this season, largely thanks to Ogunbowale. She has the flexibility to hit a shot from wherever. I mediate the Wings will maintain it to the playoffs, but I am no longer definite if the Liberty will advance.
The Mystics’ probabilities of reaching the postseason got tougher Thursday with the details that Delle Donne may possibly well well no longer return this season. Gathered, I may possibly well well gaze Washington sneaking in now that Tina Charles is support from hurt.
The Wings are presently seventh, which would match them in opposition to the Sky in the first round. Dallas went 2-1 in opposition to Chicago this season, and I may possibly well well gaze Dallas successful that matchup in the playoffs. In a July matchup between the two teams, Candace Parker had 22 points however the Wings mute beat the Sky thanks to 46 combined points from Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey. In August, Ogunbowale dropped 10 points in the 2nd half to salvage the snatch. Even though each wins were by single digits, the Wings can upset the Sky if they’ll pick up their offense going.
Lee: Kelly put it ideally suited: It has been a battle for the Liberty and Wings. I am no longer terribly assured in both team locking in a playoff snatch, but take care of the leisure of the crew, give an edge to the Wings.
Voepel: We’re all in agreement that neither team appears to be like to be likely to grab a playoff sport if they maintain the postseason. But excited by the Liberty received two games final twelve months, even tasting 40 minutes of the postseason would mean something. And whereas New York is younger, Dallas is even younger, so any playoff abilities is higher than nothing. Nine of the Wings’ 12 avid gamers are 26 or younger, and ideally suited two present Wings avid gamers were on the roster when the franchise final made the playoffs in 2018: Allisha Gray and Kayla Thornton.