What to know about the WNBA playoffs

The Chicago Sky are set to begin their bid to become the first consecutive WNBA champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002 ...


The Chicago Sky are set to begin their bid to become the first consecutive WNBA champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002. But the regular season was close upand several teams could easily lift the trophy this year.

Here’s how the WNBA playoffs go.

Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST when second-seeded Sky hosts seventh-seeded Liberty. At 10 p.m., the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces host eighth-seeded Phoenix Mercury.

The other two series — No. 3 Connecticut Sun against No. 6 Dallas Wings and No. 4 Seattle Storm against No. 5 Washington Mystics — begin Thursday.

The first round is best of three, the top-ranked team hosting the first two games. If a third game is needed, it will be played at the home of the lowest ranked team.

The semi-finals and finals are best-of-five, following a traditional 2-2-1 format for home games.

Besides the joy of reaching the end, the final will bring another advantage to the players. For this round only, the league pay the teams fly by charter plane.

ABC and the various ESPN channels will broadcast the playoffs. Games can also be streamed via ESPN.

They are expected to start on September 11 and end on September 20 if all five games are needed.

The big three are Las Vegas, Chicago and Connecticut, all of which finished within a game of each other at the top. Seattle and Washington, which finished with identical 22-14 records, are next level.

It is very difficult to see any of the bottom three teams win. Dallas was .500, and the Liberty and Phoenix both lost more than they won in the regular season.

For statistics, Las Vegas had the strongest offense in the league, scoring 109.6 points per 100 possessions. Washington had the stingiest defense, allowing just 96 points per 100 possessions.

But in net notecombining offense and defense, it was Connecticut at the top, scoring 9.5 points more than opposition per 100 possessions. That could make the third-seeded Sun a sneaky favorite.

Higher ranked Aces have a powerful one-two punch. Forward A’ja Wilson is a favorite for the Most Valuable Player award after finishing in the top five in points per game (19.5) and rebounds per game (9.4), and guard Kelsey Plum has scored 20.2 points per game while leading the league in 3-pointers made.

Seattle has another MVP candidate in forward Breanna Stewart, who led the league in scoring with 21.8 points per game, and few will take their eyes off legendary Sue Bird, 41, the league’s career assists leader. WNBA, who will retire after the playoffs.

And it’ll be worth watching Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu, who at this point still has just one career playoff game.

Seattle has four WNBA titles, all of them — yes, even the 2004 one — with Bird. Phoenix has won three times; once each for Washington and Chicago. The Dallas Wings won three times when they were known as the Detroit Shock. The other three teams are looking for their first titles. It’s a particularly delicate point for the Liberty, who have been in the league since their first season in 1997.

Seven of the eight teams are the same as last year’s playoffs. With Washington returning after a year away, the odd team out is the Minnesota Lynx, who finished 14-22 and ended an 11-game playoff streak.

This means there is no playoff showcase for Sylvia Fowles, who is retiring after a season in which she led the league in rebounds per game.

The absence of the Los Angeles Sparks will cost fans a chance to see more of Nneka Ogwumike and robbery leader Brittney Sykes.

The Mercury will be without injured WNBA leading scorer Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith, who led Phoenix in scoring this season but will miss the playoffs for personal reasons. But the darkest absence from the team is Brittney Griner, who is appealing her drug trafficking conviction in Russia, where she has been imprisoned since February.

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