Playoff Race Heating Up in Homestretch of WNBA Season

The WNBA regular season is back in full swing with the Olympic break over and the homestretch of the year underway ahead of postseason play commencing on Sept. 23. 

With just a few weeks remaining in the 32-game, regular-season schedule that concludes on Sept. 19, there are now just about 10 regular-season games left for all 12 teams in the league.

As the summer comes to a close, it’s officially time to look at how the postseason picture is shaping up and what teams will make the cut to be part of the eight-team field that will battle for a WNBA championship in 2021. 

Let’s take a look at the playoff breakdown as it stands entering the last full week of August, including who is set to fill out those eight spots and the teams still fighting for seed positioning or a playoff spot in general.

 

Current Playoff Picture
(Updated through Aug. 23)

 

  1. Connecticut Sun (17-6, – GB) 
  2. Las Vegas Aces (17-6, – GB) 
  3. Seattle Storm (18-7, – GB) 
  4. Minnesota Lynx (14-9, 3 GB) 
  5. Phoenix Mercury (13-10, 4 GB) 
  6. Chicago Sky (11-12, 6 GB) 
  7. New York Liberty (11-14, 7 GB) 
  8. Los Angeles Sparks (10-13, 7 GB) 

———————–

  1. Dallas Wings (10-14, 7.5 GB) 
  2. Washington Mystics (8-14, 8.5 GB)
  3. Atlanta Dream (6-17, 11 GB)
  4. Indiana Fever (5-18, 12 GB)

 

Top Three Seeds

Three frontrunners to make a deep run in the postseason and ultimately reach the WNBA Finals are Connecticut (17-6), Las Vegas (17-6) and Seattle (18-7). These three teams are still fighting over the top two spots in the league standings while ultimately trying to grab the first seed heading into the playoffs. 

The first and second seeds receive a two-round bye and an automatic spot in the semifinals, while the third and fourth seeds receive a one-round bye and automatically appear in the single-elimination second round. 

The Sun, Aces and Storm have all but locked up the top three seeds in the postseason. However, teams such as Minnesota and Phoenix could get hot and make a run at one of those spots in the remainder of the regular season. 

For basically the entire season, Connecticut, Las Vegas and Seattle have filled out the top three seeds in the standings, but the race for who will claim which seed has heated up in the second half of the year and will likely stay hot over the last 10 or so games. 

The Storm own the tiebreaker over the Sun in their two-game series, so if these teams end up with the same record at the end of the regular season, Seattle will claim the higher seed. On the other hand, since the Aces hold the tiebreaker over the Storm, a tie between these two teams would result in the Aces coming out on top. Lastly, the Sun hold the tiebreaker over the Aces and would surpass the Las Vegas squad in the standings in the event of a tie. 

This race will continue to be just as interesting to finish out the year as it has been all season long. 

 

Tiebreakers: 
  • Seattle: 
    • 2-0 vs. Sun
    • 1-2 vs. Aces
  • Connecticut: 
    • 2-0 vs. Aces (final game on Aug. 24)
    • 0-2 vs. Storm 
  • Las Vegas:
    • 0-2 vs. Sun (final game on Aug. 24)
    • 2-1 vs. Storm 

 

The Fourth Through Eighth Seeds 

To follow the top three seeds in the standings, the fourth through eighth seeds are also still up for grabs with a handful of teams fighting for the best possible positioning when postseason play begins. 

Minnesota (14-9) has a pretty good hold on at least the fourth or fifth seed in the league standings ahead of the playoffs. Phoenix (13-10) is merely one game behind Minnesota and could also be in a good spot to obtain a top five seed at the end of the regular season. 

See Also

As for the sixth through eighth seeds, Chicago (11-12) in sixth place, New York (11-14) in seventh place and Los Angeles (10-13) in eighth place currently round out the postseason layout, but all three of those teams are within one game of each other and could shift up and down in the coming weeks. The Sky, who are two games behind the Mercury for the fifth seed, currently have a one-game lead over both the Liberty and Sparks. New York and Los Angeles are not only one game behind Chicago but both teams are also just a half game ahead of Dallas for ninth and missing the postseason altogether.

There is plenty to still shake out in the standings over the course of the last 10 games or so of the regular season, but the fight for the fourth through eighth seeds will be one of the more entertaining things to see unfold. There are still plenty of games between these teams that will weigh heavily on tiebreaker situations and could continue to shake up the look of the playoff field. 

 

Tiebreakers:
  • Minnesota:
    • 2-1 vs. Mercury
    • 1-1 vs. Sky
    • 1-1 vs. Liberty (final game on Aug. 31)
    • 2-0 vs. Sparks (final game on Sept. 2)
  • Phoenix 
    • 1-2 vs. Lynx
    • 2-0 vs. Sky (final game on Aug. 31)
    • 0-1 vs. Liberty (final games on Aug. 25 and Aug. 27)
    • 2-1 vs. Sparks
  • Chicago: 
    • 1-1 vs. Lynx
    • 0-2 vs. Mercury (final game on Aug. 31)
    • 2-1 vs. Liberty
    • 0-3 vs. Sparks
  • New York
    • 1-1 vs. Lynx (final game on Aug. 31)
    • 1-0 vs. Mercury (final games on Aug. 25 and Aug. 27)
    • 1-2 vs. Sky
    • 1-1 vs. Sparks
  • Los Angeles
    • 0-2 vs. Lynx (final game on Sept. 2)
    • 1-2 vs. Mercury
    • 3-0 vs. Sky
    • 1-1 vs. Liberty

 

On the Outside Looking In

Outside of the playoffs looking in, there are a pair of teams that could make a late push into the postseason picture and make things interesting for the bottom seeds. 

These two teams are Dallas (10-14) in ninth place and Washington (8-14) in 10th place. The Wings are just a half game back of the seventh and eighth seeds, while the Mystics have a bit of a tougher road ahead of them as they are sitting 1.5 games behind New York and Los Angeles. Dallas is a team that could be in a better position of the two teams solely based on it being right on the cusp of one of the bottom playoff seeds, but both the Wings and Mystics could try and make things even more interesting down the stretch of the year. 

Outside of those 10 teams, Atlanta (6-17) and Indiana (5-18) round out the WNBA standings. Although they haven’t officially been eliminated from the postseason picture, their hopes of reaching the playoffs seem like a long shot. The Dream, in 11th place, are four games out of a playoff spot, while the last-place Fever are five games away from the postseason.

With the regular season winding down and the playoff picture starting to come into focus, there is still plenty to keep an eye on over the course of the last 10 or so games before the final game of the year arrives. From the battle for the top two seeds atop the standings to the jostling for contention and positioning in the rest of the field, we could be in for an entertaining homestretch of the season as August comes to a close and September arrives. 

 

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