Breaking Down the WNBA Playoff Field

With the 2021 regular season concluding this past Sunday, the WNBA postseason is finally here. The playoff field is officially set as eight teams prepare to battle to bring home a league championship. 

Postseason action will kick off on Thursday with the single-elimination first round between the bottom four playoff seeds. After the first round, there will be a single-elimination second round, the best-of-five semifinals and—finally—the best-of-five WNBA Finals. 

With the playoff field set and the WNBA Playoffs finally here, the journey to claiming a league title is about to begin. To get you prepared for the postseason ahead, let’s break down the field, look at the initial matchups in the first and second rounds, and take a glance of what we could see in the semifinals. 


Playoff Field

  1. Connecticut Sun – x
  2. Las Vegas Aces – x
  3. Minnesota Lynx – y
  4. Seattle Storm – y 
  5. Phoenix Mercury
  6. Chicago Sky
  7. Dallas Wings
  8. New York Liberty

x = two-round bye
y = one-round bye 


Playoff Schedule

  • First Round: 
    • Thursday, Sept. 23
  • Second Round: 
    • Sunday, Sept. 26
  • Semifinals: 
    • Game One: Tuesday, Sept. 28 
    • Game Two: Thursday, Sept. 30
    • Game Three: Sunday, Oct. 3 
    • Game Four (if necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 6
    • Game Five (if necessary): Friday, Oct. 8
  • WNBA Finals: 
    • Game One: Sunday, Oct. 10
    • Game Two: Wednesday, Oct. 13
    • Game Three: Friday, Oct. 15
    • Game Four (if necessary): Sunday, Oct. 17
    • Game Five (if necessary): Tuesday, Oct. 19



First-Round Matchups

Thursday, Sept. 23

#7 Dallas Wings at #6 Chicago Sky, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2

To begin postseason play, seventh-seed Dallas will visit sixth-seed Chicago for a single-elimination battle. This matchup could be a high-scoring one as both teams ranked in the top half of the league in points per game during the regular season. 

During the summer, the Wings and Sky faced off three times in total but only once in Chicago. In that three-game series, Dallas held a 2-1 advantage, beating Chicago on July 2 in Arlington and on Aug. 17 in Chicago. Chicago won its lone game of the season series on June 30 in Arlington. 

If New York wins the other first-round matchup against Phoenix, the winner of this game will travel to face Seattle in the second round. However, if the Mercury beat the Liberty, the winner of this game will travel to play Minnesota in the next round.


#8 New York Liberty at #5 Phoenix Mercury, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Rounding out the action in the first round on Thursday, eighth-seed New York will visit fifth-seed Phoenix for the win-or-go-home game at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix. 

In the three-game series during the regular season, the Mercury owned a 2-1 advantage against the Liberty. Phoenix topped New York on Aug. 25 and Aug. 27 in Brooklyn, while the Liberty took the first matchup of the season on June 13 in Phoenix.

If the Liberty pull off the upset in this game, they will face Minnesota in the second round. If Phoenix comes out on top, the Mercury will play at Seattle, and the winner of the Dallas/Chicago game will play Minnesota.


Second-Round Matchups

Sunday, Sept. 26

#4 Seattle Storm vs. Highest Remaining Seed

After Minnesota clinched the third seed with a win on Sunday, Seattle officially locked up the fourth seed and a one-round bye, awaiting its opponent until after the first-round matchups take place. 

The defending champions floated around the top of the WNBA standings for most of the regular season, but the Storm have gone through a bit of a rough patch since the Olympic break, entering the postseason 5-5 in their last 10 games. 

The Storm could end up playing three of the four teams taking part in the first-round games, hosting either Phoenix, Dallas or Chicago. If the Mercury beat the Liberty, Seattle will host Phoenix on Sunday. If New York beats Phoenix, the Storm will play the winner of Dallas/Chicago in the single-elimination second round. 

In the regular season, Seattle went 2-1 against both Phoenix and Dallas and 0-3 against Chicago.


#3 Minnesota Lynx vs. Lowest Remaining Seed

Minnesota finished its stellar second half of the regular season by clinching the third seed with its win over Washington on Sunday, ensuring it would host the lowest remaining seeded team to come out of the first round. 

The Lynx have won nine of their last 10 games and ride into the playoffs winners of four in a row. 

See Also

Like Seattle, Minnesota can only face three of the four teams taking part in the first round: New York, Dallas or Chicago. If the Liberty win in the opening round, they travel to Minnesota. If Phoenix beats New York, Dallas or Chicago will enter Target Center to face the Lynx for a chance to go to the semifinals.

During the summer, Minnesota finished 2-1 against New York and Dallas and split a two-game series with Chicago.


Semifinal Matchups

#2 Las Vegas Aces vs. Highest Remaining Seed

In the last week of the regular season, Las Vegas secured the second seed in the playoffs to receive the coveted double bye while also claiming home-court advantage during—at least—the semifinals. 

The Aces ended the year with an overall record of 24-8, winning eight of their last 10 games and four in a row. 

In the best-of-five semifinals, Las Vegas will host the highest remaining seed from the second round at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, where the Aces have compiled a record of 13-3.

If the Aces are able to get their roster back to full strength to hit the ground running in the playoffs, they could make a push for a deep playoff run and potentially give the top-seeded Sun a run for their money in the WNBA Finals, depending on how the seeding plays out heading into that championship series.


#1 Connecticut Sun vs. Lowest Remaining Seed

Connecticut concluded the regular season as both the hottest team in the WNBA and the team with the best record to secure home-court advantage throughout the postseason. 

The Sun finished the year with a record of 26-6, which places them two games ahead of Las Vegas. They also cruise into the playoffs with an impressive 14-game winning streak.

As a result of securing the top overall seed, the Sun will welcome in the lowest remaining from the second round to Mohegan Sun Arena, where Connecticut put together a record of 15-1 during the regular season. 

It’s going to be awfully tough to top the Sun, especially with how they have been playing as of late. It’s going to be even harder for another team to try and top Connecticut in a best-of-five series.


Now with the regular season in the past following the conclusion of the 32-game schedule on Sunday, the playoffs are finally here and we now know which eight teams will try and fight for a WNBA title. With several playoff-bound teams capable of getting hot at the right time, this postseason could be one of the more entertaining ones yet. 

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