On August 23rd, the Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Indiana Fever 98-65. LA’s victory not only clinched the Sparks’ playoff berth, but also clinched a playoff berth for the Chicago Sky. Now, the Sky have officially made the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Currently the team is fifth in the standings, but there are plenty of games left and seeding can look very different once the season ends. The Sky have already had a successful season, but let’s look ahead to what could make it better. With a playoff berth in hand what teams will the Sky potentially matchup against and how will they fare?
How Do The Playoffs Work?
Before we discuss the possibilities for the Sky, let’s remind ourselves how the playoff work in the WNBA. The top eight teams in the league make the playoffs. The top two seeds get a double bye and don’t play until semifinals. Seeds 3 and 4 get one bye while seeds 5-8 and 6-7 play a single elimination game to start the first round.
The winners of the first round go on to face seeds 3 and 4 in a single elimination match. The third seed plays the lowest seeded winner from round 1 and the fourth plays the highest seeded winner from round one. The winners of round two go on to play seeds 1 and 2 in the WNBA semifinals. The semifinals are a best-of-five series where seed one plays the lowest seed still in the playoffs while seed two plays the highest seed available.
The winners of the semifinal matchups face each other in the WNBA Finals, a best of five series that will determine the WNBA champion. The team with the best record in the Finals has home-court advantage in the series.
Possible First-Round Opponents for the Sky
The Sky are currently fifth, but can still move up (or down) in the standings. As things sit the Sky would play the Phoenix Mercury who are eighth. Other possibilities are the Minnesota Lynx (7th) and the Seattle Storm (6th). The gap between 6-8 is a mere three games, so it’s safe to say the Sky will likely play one of these three teams if they can’t reach the top four and earn a bye. The New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, and Dallas Wings are not yet mathematically eliminated. But all of those teams are 4 games behind and it’s highly doubtful they can reach the playoffs.
The Phoenix Mercury and the Sky have only played each other once. The Sky won 82-75 with great performances by Diamond DeSheilds and Courntey Vandersloot. Still, the score was tight, Brittney Griner had 16 points and 6 rebounds, and one game is too small a sample size to make many declarative statements. In a single elimination game anything can happen, but I feel good with the chances the Chicago Sky have against the Mercury. With home court in a single elimination game, the Sky will be favored. Containing Griner will be key and doing so will be even harder with Jantel Lavender out for this round at least.
The Minnesota Lynx are one of the most successful franchises in WNBA history. They are definitely missing Maya Moore, who chose to sit out 2019 to focus on ministry. Despite their struggles, the Lynx are still in the playoffs and are a team no one is excited to play.
The Sky lost both matches to Lynx one home and one away. The Lynx have a star in the making with ROY contender Naphessa Collier. It’s going to be hard to contain her in the playoffs. The Chicago Sky play another game against the Lynx on August 27th, so perhaps the Sky can win and the game can be a bright spot in their one on one matchups this season.
Seattle Storm are the current WNBA champions. Hopes for a great season were dashed when Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird went out for the season with a torn Achilles and a knee injury, respectively. Despite losing their star players, the Storm have stayed in playoff contention.
The Sky are 2-1 versus the Storm, but every game has been decided by six points or less. Intangibles are so hard to factor in when it comes to the playoffs, but with championship experience and tight head to head matchups it will be difficult for Chicago to beat the Storm. No more matchups are scheduled between the teams so the next time they meet will be in the playoffs or next season.
The Sparks are currently one game ahead of the Sky in the standings. It is very possible the Sky can move up and force the Sparks into the first round. Either way, there is a path to a second round matchup of Sky vs Sparks.
Both teams have split the season series with both home teams winning a game. The Sparks are very dangerous and have a great offensive attack with Parker and Ogwumike. I believe the Sparks are the toughest team for the Sky to possibly face first. Avoiding an encounter with them is preferable.
Sky town is ecstatic about reaching the playoffs. Coach James Wade delivered in a big way this season. Many of the Sky’s potential playoff opponents have played them well in head to head matchups, but with seven games left the Sky can string together several wins, get home court for one of the playoff rounds, and perhaps even a two round bye. The Sky have been one of the biggest surprises this season and with a playoff run looming they just might shock the WNBA world.