Welcome to the Winsidr Live Playoff Journal, where we’ll keep you apprised of everything going on in the action-packed WNBA postseason! The morning after every game, our team here at Winsidr will post a recap of the previous evening’s events, featuring key plays, moments, and performances from the stars of the night. Looking for a one-stop shop specializing in all things WNBA Playoffs? You’ve come to the right place! Check this space daily throughout the playoffs for updates, opinions, and all your WNBA needs.

Playoff Series Previews

Chicago-New York Preview

Las Vegas-Phoenix Preview

Connecticut-Dallas Preview

Seattle-Washington Preview

 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (3) Connecticut Sun – Game 3

 

In front of a raucous home crowd on Thursday night, the Connecticut Sun staved off elimination, trouncing Las Vegas, 105-76, in Game Three of the WNBA Finals. There remains much work to be done for the Sun (who trail 2-1 in the series), but the group that appeared listless in Las Vegas found itself reenergized back in Connecticut. 

The Aces hopped out to an early advantage, riding the sparkling play of Jackie Young to a 9-2 lead just minutes into the game. After Sun head coach Curt Miller called time out, everything came up Connecticut. The Sun erupted for 32 points in the final 7:45 of the first quarter after Miller’s timeout and never relented. Every time Las Vegas made a push, Connecticut fended the Aces off with a run of its own. The Aces cut their deficit to six with just over a minute left in the third quarter, but that’s the closest head coach Becky Hammon’s bunch would get. 

Alyssa Thomas was the star of the evening, recording the first triple-double in Finals history. She logged 16 points (8-of-14), 15 rebounds, and 11 assists to go along with some spectacular defense. Thomas set the tone for a Sun squad that saw all five starters reach double-digit point totals and shoot 50.0 percent or better from the field. Jonquel Jones was magnificent in her 25 minutes, finishing with a team-high 20 points as well as five rebounds and four assists. DeWanna Bonner finally emerged from her shooting slump, scoring 18 points, snaring six rebounds, and dishing five assists. 

Young paced Las Vegas in defeat, notching a career playoff high with 22 points on 5-of-10 from three. A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum added 19 and 17 points, respectively. 

 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (3) Connecticut Sun – Game 2

 

 The Las Vegas Aces successfully defended home court, securing an 85-71 Game 2 win to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. They’ll have a chance to hoist the championship trophy (size, TBD) on Thursday in Uncasville, and based on the effort we saw from the Connecticut Sun, a sweep feels likely.

The three-headed monster of A’ja Wilson (26 points and 10 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting), Chelsea Gray (21 points, eight assists), and Kelsey Plum (20 points, seven assists) nearly outscored the entire Sun’s team in the dominant victory. What felt most distressing about the effort put forth by Connecticut was that this was a style of basketball it usually thrives playing: the teams combined to make just nine of their 40 attempts from deep (22.5 percent), forcing a physical matchup inside the paint; turnovers were limited (seven for Vegas, eight for Connecticut), so most of the game took place in the halfcourt; and their reserves doubled up the Aces’ 22-11 in scoring. 

Despite all that seemingly working in the Sun’s favor, they were never the aggressors. Plum found no resistance at the rim when she blew by a defender on the perimeter. Wilson made all six of her attempts in the paint. Gray continued to connect on absurd late-clock fadeaways. All in all, for a team that builds its identity around its toughness, Connecticut failed to impose its will through physicality time and again. The Aces’ half-court defense swarmed and smothered in a way we’ve come to expect Curt Miller’s squads to engage, but this was a one-sided matchup. The Sun are in familiar must-win territory, but this is their toughest task yet. 

It’s not impossible for the Connecticut Sun to find a way back into this series, but in order to do that, they’ll have to first find their way back to themselves.

(1)Las Vegas Aces vs. (3) Connecticut Sun – Game 1

Coming into Game One of the WNBA Finals, one thing was for certain—the league would be crowning a brand new champion as neither the Connecticut Sun nor the Las Vegas Aces have ever held the trophy at the end of the season. After a gritty and—in the words of Becky Hammon— “mucky” Game One, Las Vegas finds itself a game closer to securing the series and that elusive first title. 

The Aces were led once again by Chelsea Gray and A’ja Wilson. Gray continued to dazzle and leave defenders scratching their heads, hitting 9-of-17 from the floor for 21 points. However, Gray uncharacteristically struggled facilitating with six turnovers to three assists. Regardless, Gray was able to resume her impressive playoff run and was joined by league MVP A’ja Wilson, who was challenged this game by Connecticut’s physical defense but responded by finishing with 24 points (6-of-11 from the field and 12-of-14 from the free throw line), 11 rebounds, and four blocks. Dearica Hamby, who has battled injury and seen limited playoff minutes, was a spark for the Aces as she secured three rebounds (two offensive) to go along with two assists. While Hamby’s numbers aren’t eye popping, Becky Hammon mentioned post game that it was the timing and the hustle of those plays that propelled the Aces to a 21-15 third quarter and ultimately the win.

The Sun lead all playoff teams with a 91.9 defensive rating and are also first in opponents points per game at 72.1. Their ability to turn the game into a half-court, slowed down affair against the Aces was highly successful. Vegas, on the other hand, came into the game leading all playoff teams in points per game, averaging 88.7 over the playoffs. Looking at the final being in the high 60s, you have to think this is a game Connecticut could’ve and wished it would have been able to pull out. The Sun had four players score in double figures, led by Alyssa Thomas (19 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists) and Jonquel Jones (15 points and nine rebounds). But these performances were not enough to offset 18 total points from DeWanna Bonner, Natisha Hiedeman, and Courtney Williams. This trio simply weren’t seeing many baskets go through the hoop on the evening, including the last play of the game during which Bonner missed a step-through three-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime. The Sun had a brilliant Game One game plan that ultimately fell just short, and they will look to regroup quickly and fine-tune those minor details before Game Two on Tuesday. 

 

(2) Chicago Sky vs. (3) Connecticut Sun – Game 5

The semifinals matchup between the Chicago Sky and Connecticut Sun needed a full five games to be decided, and the winner-take-all contest didn’t disappoint at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. After falling to Chicago in the semifinals last season, Connecticut got its revenge by coming from behind to take Game Five, 72-63, and advance to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2019.

After a back-and-forth first half that saw Connecticut jump out to an early lead on the road only to have Chicago bounce back in the second quarter, the two teams were knotted up at 40-40 heading into halftime. The Sky dominated the third quarter. They outscored the Sun 18-8 to take a 10-point lead and looked to be on their way to returning to the WNBA Finals to defend their title. However, Connecticut didn’t let up, to say the least. The Sun put together an impressive fourth quarter to come from behind and claim the game and series. The Sun outscored the Sky 24-5 in the final 10 minutes, including an 18-0 run to finish the game and pull out the nine-point victory.

All five Connecticut starters finished in double figures in the win, led by 15 points and 10 rebounds from Jonquel Jones and 15 points, nine rebounds, and five assists from DeWanna Bonner. Natisha Hiedeman added 14 points and four assists, while Alyssa Thomas finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Courtney Williams pitched in with 12 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Despite only making two threes in the win, Connecticut shot 45.8 percent from the field and owned the paint, outscoring Chicago 36-26 in points in the paint.

While seeking a return to the WNBA Finals, Chicago had a hard time matching up against a solid Connecticut defense throughout Game Five. The Sky finished 34.3 percent from the field but buried eight threes to remain in the game. Ultimately, Chicago couldn’t overcome those offensive woes to hold off a late surge by Connecticut down the stretch. Kahleah Copper did all she could to lift the Sky, finishing with a team-high 22 points to go along with four steals. Emma Meesseman added 14 points and six rebounds, and Courtney Vandersloot tallied 12 points and three steals for Chicago. Candace Parker, who had been outstanding during the entire postseason, struggled in the loss. She finished with seven points, which was her first single-digit outing of the playoffs. Parker added nine rebounds, four blocks, and three steals in 33 minutes. 

Connecticut now shifts its focus from the defending champions to Las Vegas in the WNBA Finals as both the Sun and the Aces look to win their first league title in franchise history.

 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (4) Seattle Storm – Game 4

The Las Vegas Aces punched their ticket to the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night, defeating Seattle, 97-92, in a thrilling contest that came down to the final minute. Las Vegas enacted its revenge after losing to the Storm in the 2020 Finals, and now the Aces look to capture their first title in franchise history. 

A’ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray were magnificent in the back-and-forth battle, Jackie Young provided clutch stability, and Kelsey Plum set the tone early to propel Las Vegas into the final stage of the postseason. Wilson played all 40 minutes, tallying 23 points (8-of-15 shooting), 13 rebounds, and three blocks. Wilson accomplished all this while admirably guarding Storm superstar Breanna Stewart, despite Stewart’s 42-point explosion. Gray provided the most memorable highlights of the evening, rendering many a dropped jaw with her shotmaking. The Aces point guard canned ridiculous look after ridiculous look, finishing with 31 points (13-of-22 shooting) and 10 assists. Young scored 18 points on just six field goal attempts, going 3-of-3 from three, 5-of-5 from the line, and clinching the victory with a steal in the waning seconds. Plum added 15 points and four assists.

Seattle led by four after one quarter and three at halftime, but the Storm exited intermission ice cold, scoring just 12 points in the third quarter to Las Vegas’ 22. The fourth quarter was a rollicking affair as each team took its turn to snatch the momentum from its opponent only to relinquish it again moments later. A Gabby Williams and-one with under three minutes remaining gave Seattle a one-point lead, which would be the final Storm advantage of the game. Young answered with an and-one of her own on the ensuing possession. The teams traded buckets until Gray put the Aces up for good, nailing a three-pointer with 1:03 left for a 90-87 edge. Seattle missed on the next possession, paving the way for Gray’s dagger—a pull-up, mid-range jumper with 30.7 seconds remaining. 

Stewart was on fire the entire night, scoring 26 points in the first half and 16 in the second half on 14-of-22 shooting and 6-of-8 from three. Stewart guarded Wilson as admirably as Wilson did Stewart, blocking three shots of her own and also playing all 40 minutes. Jewell Loyd added 29 points for the Storm, but no one else on the team reached double digits. 

Last night marked Sue Bird’s final WNBA game of an illustrious career. The four-time champion went down swinging, but it was the Aces left standing when the clock hit triple zeroes. 

 

(2) Chicago Sky vs. (3) Connecticut Sun – Game 4

The Connecticut Sun forced a win-or-go-home Game Five on Tuesday night, authoring a wire-to-wire demolition of the defending champions, Chicago Sky. Connecticut never trailed, cruising to a 104-80 victory at home that lacked suspense but set the table for an electric contest in Chicago on Thursday. 

The Sun dominated in just about every facet, continually finding themselves a step ahead of the Sky defense. Connecticut shot 56.9 percent from the field and outrebounded Chicago, 39-23. Head coach Curt Miller’s bunch was the epitome of balance and teamwork in Game Four, with six players scoring in double digits but no one hitting the 20-point mark. 

DeWanna Bonner was everywhere, finishing with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals, and three blocks. Courtney Williams scored 19 points of her own, while Alyssa Thomas added 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Brionna Jones, Odyssey Sims, and DiJonai Carrington all tallied 10+ points off the bench for the Sun. 

Kahleah Copper paced Chicago with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Candace Parker added 11 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in the loss. 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs (4) Seattle Storm  Game 3

Without much separating the Aces and Storm in the prior two games, Game 3 would follow a different trajectory, albeit with a similar edge-of-your-seat, Holy-cow-this-is-incredible-basketball! feel by the time the final buzzer would sound.

After scoring the first points of the game, leading at times by as many as 15 in the first half, the Aces seemed in control of things going into halftime up 48-40. Chelsea Gray and A’ja Wilson were playing phenomenally, and the Aces had effectively slowed down Breanna Stewart, as she was just 1-of-7 from the field for four points in the half, but the real fireworks were reserved for the second half. 

Seattle came out from the break on fire, taking their first lead of the game at 54-54, outscoring the Aces 16-4 during that run,  and propelled themselves to a four-point lead. From there, both teams followed the script that deadlocked this series, as the lead would change six times, with nine ties. Over the final minute of the game, they traded multiple baskets, before Las Vegas eventually pulled out the 110-98 victory in overtime to take back home court advantage, making Game 4 a must-win for the Storm. 

Words cannot do justice to the excitement of this game, but the final minutes of regulation were top tier basketball, complete with insane  heroics from a multitude of players. See if you can follow this wild sequence spanning the final 11 seconds of regulation:

After the Storm took a 89-85 lead—thanks to two Jewell Loyd free throws—Riquna Williams (14 points on 5-of-10 shooting) would drain a three to pull Vegas within one. Tina Charles (16 points, 5 rebounds) was then fouled and uncharacteristically missed both free throws, opening the door for Wilson to make a bucket on the next Aces’s possession, putting Vegas ahead 90-89. 

Stay with me here—it’s just getting to the good part! 

Seattle called a timeout with 2.9 seconds remaining, trailing by one, and drew up a brilliant play that found Sue Bird wide open on the baseline, where she hit a clutch three-pointer that sent Climate Pledge Arena into a frenzy, and pulled the Storm ahead 92-90 with 1.8 seconds remaining. Seattle fans were electric, and who could blame them? This was a storybook ending for Seattle; except, Jackie Young had other plans. Young would get off a shot in the lane at the buzzer, fed by Gray’s twelfth assist of the game, to tie the game at 92 and shock Seattle fans. 

Once the air had been taken out of the Storm’s sails, the Aces played the overtime frame with a determination and fire that Seattle simply couldn’t match, outscoring Seattle 18-6 in the extra five-minute frame. Wilson and Gray put up monster double-doubles of 34 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, and 29 points, 12 assists, and five rebounds, respectively; the Point Gawd seemed unphased by any defense or scheme that Seattle threw at her.

For the Storm, they had well-rounded outputs from up and down their lineup, with six players scoring in double figures, but just didn’t have enough in the tank in the overtime stretch. Stewie, after having a dismal first half, came back to finish with 20 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists, and Sue Bird had 17 points and eight assists. Timely misses at the free-throw line sank Seattle’s chances down the stretch, but these two teams have played such tight games that these factors tend to make all the difference. 

Now, the Storm are on the ropes and must win Game 4 to keep their season alive, and send the series back to Vegas.

 

(2) Chicago Sky vs (3) Connecticut Sun Game 3

With the series tied one game apiece, Chicago took care of business, 76-72, regaining home court advantage and snagging a 2-1 series lead over Connecticut. It wasn’t pretty, but with the victory, the defending champs find themselves one game away from returning to the Finals.  

The Sky have managed to pull ahead in the series for a variety of factors, but arguably none more important than the play of Candace Parker.  Parker’s basketball this postseason has been some of the most inspired of her career, ending Game 3 with 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and two steals. She was joined in double-digit scoring by Emma Meesseman (13 points, six assists), Kahleah Copper (15 points, five rebounds), and Courtney Vandersloot (12 points, six rebounds, five assists). Although both teams struggled at times to buy a basket, hitting just around 37 percent of their shots and going a stretch of nearly four minutes without a point, Chicago was able to pull out the narrow victory by forcing Connecticut into 17 turnovers, compared to nine for the Sky. 

For the Sun, their play looked disjointed at times; you have to wonder why last year’s MVP, Jonquel Jones, was on the bench for a vital stretch during the fourth quarter (and only subbed back in with less than a minute remaining). DeWanna Bonner had a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists), but the Sun were missing baskets inside the paint that they usually hit, and Alyssa Thomas and Jones combined for just 12 points on the evening.  Between Jones’ being benched and a mic’d up moment caught during a timeout of Curt Miller asking his team “if (they) know any professionals who can make a layup”, the energy and connectedness of this team felt off from the start. The Sun have all the pieces—they’ve had a ton of success over recent years—but they have yet to get over the hump and win a title. Now, they must win back-to-back games over the defending champion in order to keep their season alive. 

 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (4) Seattle Storm – Game Two

The two greatest basketball players in the world put on a show on Wednesday night when Vegas evened the series at one apiece with a 78-73 win over Seattle. A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart, seemingly in a battle for MVP since the season tipped off,  were the stories of the game as fans cheered to see which All-Star and MVP would pull out the win for her team. 

Prior to Game Two, Las Vegas was able to celebrate a trio of WNBA awards with their raucous home crowd as Becky Hammon received Coach of the Year honors, Jackie Young was named WNBA Most Improved Player, and A’ja Wilson was awarded WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. Before we dive further into the game, we have to take a second to recognize the phenomenal year of these three. Becky stepped into a team with already proven success, but her style of play and offensive prowess were the key to unlocking such a phenomenal season for the Aces.  A’ja was already an MVP, but she extended her range this season to have more of an outside game while still being a defensive stalwart and leading the league with 1.9 blocks per game. Jackie Young, meanwhile, improved her three-point shooting a whopping 18.1 percent, compared to last season, and upped her points per game from 12.2 PPG last year to 15.9 PPG this season. And all of this is on top of Kelsey Plum having her best season as a pro and being second in in the league in points per game at 20.2.  Vegas will ultimately consider this season successful if it ends with a WNBA title, but let’s enjoy this greatness and high-level basketball while we can, shall we? 

The Seattle Storm kicked this game off yet again missing their most versatile defender in Gabby Williams as she is still managing the concussion she suffered in the Storm’s Game Two victory over the Mystics in the first round. In her place, Stephanie Talbot has more than held her own, going 2-7 for six points and pulling down eight rebounds to go along with three assists in this game. 

But the story of the night was the battle between Stewie and Wilson. Playing a whopping 39 minutes (it would’ve been 40 had she not fouled out in the final minute), Stewie amassed 32 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Not to be outshined, Wilson had the best night of her playoff career, scoring 33 points of her own on 12-18 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds. When you can get a double-double from a player who was honored on the same night as Defensive Player of the Year, chances are your team is in a favorable position to win, and Wilson did just that Wednesday night. 

Additionally, Chelsea Gray (19 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) continued to be a challenge for the Storm to slow down, and Kelsey Plum (18 points, three rebounds) chipped in as well to give the Aces just enough of an offensive spark to pull out the victory. 

For Seattle, Tina Charles continued to have a great series, posting 17 points and nine rebounds, but she was the only Storm player outside of Stewie to reach double digits. Coach Quinn mentioned pregame that Jewell Loyd is the key to the Storm’s success, and Seattle will be looking for her to bounce back from a  2-10 shooting performance that saw her score eight points to go along with three rebounds and four assists. 

This series is primed to go the distance as both games in the series have felt like heavyweight battles between two teams putting everything on the line to reach the Finals. Coming into the game, the Storm had not lost a playoff game in 13 tries when Breanna Stewart has been in the lineup, which is a stat I’ve had to reread multiple times in order to believe. Stealing home-court advantage in Game One was huge for the Storm as they have played lights-out basketball in Climate Pledge Arena this year and have led the league in attendance all season. There’s hope that Vegas might be getting Dearica Hamby back, as her status was upgraded to questionable prior to Game Two, and Seattle hopes Williams will be able to return to action soon as well. 

Something to keep an eye on if this series does in fact go the distance is the minutes distribution between these two teams, especially the top players. Vegas has utilized a tighter lineup all season and leaned heavily on six players for the majority of its minutes in Game Two, with every starter except Kiah Stokes playing over 36 minutes. The Storm, in turn, went eight deep but played Stewie and Loyd 39 and 38 minutes, respectively. 

Who will take control of the series this Sunday in Seattle? Your guess is as good as ours!

 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (4) Seattle Storm – Game One

This game was expected to be a battle, and it did not disappoint.  The Seattle Storm came into Las Vegas and stole Game One 76-73 over the Las Vegas Aces. 

For as good as the Aces were at home this season and for as mediocre as the Storm have been on the road, you wouldn’t have known it by looking at the first quarter. The Storm rode an early 13-4 run to shock the Aces on their home court, bottling up A’ja Wilson by not allowing her to get early seals on Storm defenders in the paint. Neither team shot especially well early on, but it was Seattle who played perfectly by not turning the ball over and scoring seven first-quarter points off four Vegas turnovers, pushing the lead to 26-15 after the first quarter. 

The Aces worked to chip away all game, eventually taking the lead late in the fourth as both teams traded buckets—a Jewell Loyd three here, a Chelsea Gray turnaround off one foot there.  After Vegas took a 71-70 lead late, Seattle went on a six to two scoring run to close the quarter.  When the Storm have Breanna Stewart (24 points) and Loyd (26) scoring with Sue Bird facilitating (12 assists), they’re tough to beat. But this team went out and got Tina Charles for a reason, and when she adds 13 points and 18 rebounds, beating the Storm is a near impossible task. Credit the Aces for hanging around as long as they did, with Gray scoring 21 points and Kelsey Plum adding 20 points. Even though the Aces lost, they only did by three, and the good news is this is only the first game of what will likely be a wholly exciting series.

(2) Chicago Sky vs (3) Connecticut Sun  Game one

The Chicago versus Connecticut semifinal is a daunting matchup on paper despite Chicago’s 4-0 record (only 4.5 margin of win in those games) over the Sun in the regular season. With MVPs and All-Stars facing off against each other in almost every matchup on the floor, everyone anticipated this series going the distance.  Despite a historic evening from Candace Parker, the Sun were able to steal home-court advantage in Game One, winning 68-63 and finding themselves two games away from advancing to the WNBA Finals for the fourth time in franchise history in pursuit of their first elusive title. 

In this low-scoring game that still felt every bit a playoff battle between two familiar squads, Connecticut was able to capitalize on the Sky’s mistakes by outscoring them 20-10 in points off turnovers and outrebounding the Sky 47-36. Four players scored in double digits for the Sun, led by DeWanna Bonner (15 points, nine rebounds, five assists). She has been a spark plug for the Sun—a fiery leader on court who is not afraid to be vocal and step up in clutch situations. But she had plenty of help from her teammates as Alyssa Thomas (12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists)  and Jonquel Jones (12 points, nine rebounds) both had incredibly well-rounded performances on the way to the Sun’s victory. 

For the Sky, Candace Parker continued to show why she is one of the greatest to play the game, becoming the first player in WNBA playoff history to stuff the stats with 15+ points, 15+ rebounds, five blocks, and five assists. Parker was able to amass 19 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, four steals, and six blocks for good measure. Truly astounding numbers from the 13-year veteran, especially considering who she went up against and the games Jonquel Jones, Thomas, and Brionna Jones had as well. The Sky, last year’s reigning champions, scored their lowest point total of the season at 63, well below the 86.0 they had averaged through the playoffs so far.  Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, and Azurá Stevens had uncharacteristically poor shooting nights, combining to hit just 6-25 as a group. That will certainly need to improve to help Parker, Kahleah Copper (13 points, three rebounds), and Emma Meesseman (10 points, three rebounds, seven assists) with the offensive load and to get the Sky’s scoring back closer to their norm. The Sky will look to clean up their mistakes and get back to more free-flowing basketball where they can run the floor and get more easy looks in transition. But this game featured a whopping 15 lead changes and nine ties, which is an indication that we are in for a battle in what we are all hoping will be a five-game series between two juggernauts.

 

(3) Connecticut Sun vs. (6) Dallas Wings – Game Three

After splitting the first two games in decisive fashion, all bets were off coming into Wednesday’s Game Three in Dallas. As if playing on the road in an elimination game wasn’t pressure enough for the Sun, head coach Curt Miller announced earlier in the day that the team hadn’t had practice time since Sunday due to travel complications. To make things even more challenging for the Sun from a tactical standpoint, Arike Ogunbowale was also available to play for the first time in the series. It would’ve been easy to write off the Sun, who trailed by four after the first quarter and were down most of the first half, but they were always able to keep the Wings within striking distance until they found their groove. Dallas, hosting its first ever home playoff game, fought for the lead throughout the first half and was led at halftime by Marina Mabrey with 12. But a DeWanna Bonner three with two seconds before the half would tie things at 34, and that momentum foreshadowed the energy the Sun would show in a stellar third quarter, during which Connecticut outscored Dallas 23-12. Led by Bonner,  Alyssa Thomas, and some fantastic defense, the Sun were able to go on a 15-4 run in the third quarter and apply enough pressure and scoring to pull away with a comfortable lead over Dallas.

With a final score of 73-58, the Connecticut Sun become the final team to advance to the WNBA semifinals, where they will face the Chicago Sky. The Sun were able to win by forcing the Wings into 19 turnovers. Eight of those turnovers were committed by Mabrey, who was pestered on her way to 20 points to lead the Wings. The Sun were also dominant on the offensive glass, grabbing 10 more o-boards on the evening than the Wings. I give Dallas credit for pushing Connecticut to three games and making franchise history by hosting a playoff game. Had this been a one-game playoff as in years past, fans would’ve been robbed of what was a very entertaining first-round matchup that ultimately saw the better team prevail. On the bright side for Dallas, in a dubious stat shared during the game, the Wings completed the franchise’s first non-losing season since 2015 when they were the Tulsa Shock. There is reason for the Wings to be optimistic heading into the offseason, and for the Sun, this was the first step toward what they hope is a title run.

(2) Chicago Sky vs. (7) New York Liberty – Game Three

The Chicago Sky came to Brooklyn and defeated the New York Liberty in a decisive game three to continue their quest for back-to-back championships. The 90-72 final score does not represent the tightness of the game; Chicago pulled away with a 16-0 run after New York had cut the deficit to just three. Barclays hummed with the crowd’s energy, in the first ever WNBA game at the arena. (The box registered 7,837 in attendance, a sellout of the lower bowl that forced last-minute standing room only tickets to be sold.) 

 

After the game, Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello was happy with her team’s effort to earn a postseason berth and push the series to three games, which allowed the home crowd to experience high-leverage basketball. “Our goal was to make the playoffs, then it’s a new season. We went to Chicago and beat them. I think we woke them up a little bit, because now they’ve gone to another level. This is what their experience brings out.”

The Sky again flexed their veteran skill and depth. Six players notched double-figure scoring, and Candace Parker (14 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists) narrowly missed a triple double. Chicago advances to face the Connecticut Sun, in a rematch of last year’s conference finals. 

(4) Seattle Storm vs. (5) Washington Mystics – Game Two

Nearly everyone predicted this series to go the distance.  No way the Washington Mystics weren’t going to take one in Seattle and force a series-deciding Game Three back home. Well, no one told Seattle. The Seattle Storm came out with perhaps their most complete effort of the season at the most important time of the season, beating the Mystics 97-84 to complete the series sweep 2-0.

One could look at any number of factors to understand how and why this happened, including the Storm’s five starters all scoring in double figures, their 40-26 points in the paint advantage, or the innumerable runs the Storm went on. Plus, Sue Bird put on one of the greatest playoff game performances of her storied career, complete with an 18-point, 10-assist double-double and stroking four threes in the process. But the most telling stat is—against the league’s best defense—the Seattle Storm had an offensive rating of 138.6, meaning they scored nearly 139 points per 100 possessions. For reference, the highest rated team of all time (which is ironically the 2019 Washington Mystics) had an offensive rating of 112.9 for that season. The best offensive rating this year? The Las Vegas Aces at 109.6. So yeah, this was an incredibly historic performance, even if it was just one game. The Storm dominated from start to finish, banishing the Mystics to the realm of offseason sorrows, and moved on to face the top-seeded Aces in a showdown of two MVP candidates.

(3) Connecticut Sun vs. (6) Dallas Wings – Game Two

After winning Game One by a commanding 25-point margin, the script to this game was supposed to be simple for Connecticut, right?  The Sun would play Game Two at home and follow the recipe that led them to victory in Game One, exerting their size and depth to overwhelm Dallas and advance to the semifinals in two straightforward games. WRONG! The Wings played like their season was on the line and flipped the script on the Sun, leading buzzer to buzzer to a  89-79 final score that seems closer than the game felt. After three quarters, the Wings led 76-47.  Connecticut had no answer for Kayla Thornton (20 points, five rebounds, and four assists) and Teaira McCowan (17 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists), who played arguably their best games of the season in this win-or-go-home matchup for the Wings. 

For the Sun, they will look for answers quickly if they hope to keep their championship aspirations alive. It’s challenging to be down 30 at the end of the third quarter, but they have to look at the bright side of cutting 20 points off that lead in the second half to make the final score more respectable. Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones both scored 20, but the difference was at the three-point line as the Wings connected on seven more three-pointers than the Sun. Now both teams head back to Dallas for a winner-take-all game to see who will advance in the WNBA playoffs. 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (8) Phoenix Mercury – Game Two

Let’s get one thing straight, Las Vegas is LOADED! The Aces took care of business by closing out a pesky and unrelenting Phoenix Mercury team with a final score of 117-80. The Aces had a historic night on offense, setting records for three-pointers made in a game (23), consecutive field goals made in a playoff game (10), and most three-pointers in a half of a playoff game (11). Chelsea Gray had a jaw dropping evening, hitting 7-of-8 three-point attempts on the evening and dishing out eight assists. Gray, who scored 27 points,  led six Aces players in double figures, with Kelsey Plum (22), A’ja Wilson (17), Jackie Young (15), Riquna Williams (11), and Kierstan Bell (11) all contributing to the record setting performance. The win advanced the Aces to the semifinals where they will face the fourth-seeded Seattle Storm.  This game was another reminder of why Las Vegas is the number one seed, and the Aces finishing in the minimum two games will allow them to rest before meeting the Storm. 

For Phoenix, this matchup concluded a year that seemed more like a script from a movie than a WNBA season. This year has been unprecedented, and I could spend all day talking about the unfair hand the Mercury were dealt, but I’ll give it to this team for continuing to play with heart and fire. In Game One, Shey Peddy suffered a right Achilles tendon rupture, so the Mercury were already set back to begin the second game. Surprisingly, they were trailing only 34-30 at the end of the first quarter and keeping pace with the Aces. It’s no surprise that the wheels fell off the Mercury wagon in the second quarter, during which they were outscored 15 and never were capable of getting within reach of the Aces again. There’s no telling what the offseason holds for this team, but the Mercury made a fan out of me for going through everything they did and still playing inspiring basketball. 

 

(2) Chicago Sky vs. (7) New York Liberty – Game Two

After New York rattled off 13 straight points to snag an improbable Game One victory on the road, all the pressure was squarely on the shoulders of the defending champs. On Saturday morning (an 11 a.m. local time start), Chicago reminded everyone why it’s still the team to beat. By the time the 100-62 blowout was complete, the Sky had set a whole bunch of postseason records

Kahleah Copper, following an injury scare the day before, paced Chicago with 20 points. Copper was only one of five Sky players who cracked double figures during the matchup. The Sky’s dominant effort started early, with a 31-10 first quarter advantage. All afternoon long, the Sky were the more physical team, creating chaos with hard blitzes and snatching seemingly all the fifty-fifty balls. Their 45-28 rebounding advantage and 19-10 turnover edge led to an extra 18 field goal attempts, and they made the most of those additional opportunities, converting 51.3 percent of their shots from the floor. 

 

While the Liberty were able to limit turnovers, hit threes, and get on the glass during Game One, they faltered in all these areas during the matinee game on Saturday. Still, all is not lost for New York. With the split in hand, the two teams now head to Brooklyn for a winner-take-all matchup on Tuesday night. It’ll be the Liberty’s first home playoff game since their move to the Barclays Center, so they’ll hope the friendly crowd can help them to match the Sky’s energy and intensity.

 

(3) Connecticut Sun vs. (6) Dallas Wings – Game One

If you read Alyssa Thomas’ The Players’ Tribune article this week, or watched any WNBA over the last several seasons, you knew the Connecticut Sun were coming into these playoffs hungry for a title after getting so close in years past. The Sun have a successful core group of players, and they just completed a regular season where they finished one game behind the Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky for the best record in the league. Game 1 was closer than expected after the first quarter, thanks to a heroic heave by Satou Sabally, but the Sun proved why they should be considered favorites, prevailing over the Wings 93-68. 

It’s not all doom-and-gloom for Dallas, though—I actually have them stealing a game in this series, due in large part to the relentless play of Marina Mabrey and Teaira McCowan over the last several weeks. However, Connecticut’s size and physicality proved to be the difference in Game 1. Jonquel Jones looked every bit her MVP-self, going off for 19 points and eight boards, with DeWanna Bonner and DiJonai Carrington adding 12 and 13 points, respectively, and Thomas showing her appetite for winning by dropping 15 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Making Dawn Staley proud, two former Gamecocks Allisha Gray (17 points) and Tyasha Harris (13 points) led Dallas in scoring, but the Wings will need to limit Connecticut on the boards (35-28, advantage Sun) and cut back on their turnovers (17-10, advantage Sun) if they hope to bring this series back to Dallas. Dallas still has the moxie and firepower to make this series interesting, but the Sun seem destined for a deep run and have their eyes set on winning the title.

 

(4) Seattle Storm vs. (5) Washington Mystics – Game One

In our playoff preview, the Winsidr team laid out every stat signaling how close a series this would be, and Game 1 certainly lived up to expectations. If the Connecticut-Dallas matchup felt like it was over early on, this game had you on the edge of your seat for 40 minutes. Game 1 between the Storm and Mystics featured 15 lead changes, 11 ties, peak EDD vs Stewie, and plenty of fireworks, as Seattle pulled out the narrow 86-83 win to protect their home court advantage. Breanna Stewart’s greatness was on display once again with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, but every bit of it was necessary to counter Elena Delle Donne, who dazzled with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, three rebounds, and five assists. 

Washington jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on the back of Ariel Atkins shooting, but they would never see that lead balloon any further, as the Storm finally found their groove and returned the favor with a 6-0 run of their own. In fact, the Mystics were tied or leading at the end of every quarter in Game 1, but were outscored by four in the fourth after Jewell Loyd’s offensive eruption. Coming into the fourth quarter, the Mystics’ guards had been effective at containing Loyd, holding her to just four points on 0-of-5 shooting after three quarters. But Loyd wouldn’t stay cold much longer, scoring 12 of Seattle’s final 14 points and sparking a 14-6 run to help the Storm escape with the victory. 

While no single stat on her line may jump out, Gabby Williams left her imprint on every aspect of the game with 12 points, three steals, six assists, and seven rebounds. Coach Quinn mentioned Gabby’s potential to be a gamechanger in the series, knowing that Alysha Clark’s defensive capabilities and knowledge of the Storm’s schemes would largely affect Sue Bird. Clark was a pest for Storm guards all night on defense, but offensively scored just two points to go along with 16 from both Natasha Cloud and Atkins. Playing in her first ever WNBA playoff game, Shakira Austin continued on her radiant rookie campaign by scoring 12 points to go along with seven boards and a block. 

 

 

(2) Chicago Sky vs. (7) New York Liberty – Game One

This wasn’t necessarily supposed to be a close series. Yes, outside of the first game in the regular season series, the margin of victory for the two teams was close this season, but this is the Chicago Sky we are talking about. These are the defending champions; the team with the depth, experience, and balanced attack that is arguably the favorite to repeat. However, none of that mattered to the New York Liberty on Wednesday night. After needing a couple victories over the Atlanta Dream to clinch a spot, the Liberty came into Chicago knowing they were underdogs, but they didn’t care. They needed a perfect or near-flawless performance for 40 minutes to pilfer Game One and take home-court advantage. Well, they did just that. The Liberty went on a 13-0 run to end the game and won 98-91 to take a 1-0 series lead.

The Liberty’s plan? Take the crowd out early, spread the floor to prevent the aggressive Chicago defense, and hit from three. The Liberty accomplished all three. They started the game by keeping things very close and going into halftime up three, leaving the increasingly growing crowd in a nervous stupor. The Liberty hit from three early and often, spreading their offensive attack out so the Sky couldn’t trap them. Seven different Liberty players hit a three, including three each from Sabrina Ionescu and Stefanie Dolson. What they didn’t plan for was an otherworldly pass from French sensation Marine Johannès to Natasha Howard for a bucket late in the fourth quarter. “It kind of reminded me of the Sue Bird pass,” Howard remarked after the game. The world was stunned, but Chicago looked even more bewildered as New York rode the 13-0 run to shock the Sky in Game One.

 

(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (8) Phoenix Mercury – Game One

Another series, another expected blowout. The top-seeded Las Vegas Aces hosted the Phoenix Mercury in a series that also wasn’t expected to be that tightly contested. For all the adversity Phoenix has dealt with this season, what hope could the Mercury hold? Many predicted this series to be over after two games, so the 16-point spread for the Aces in Game One—even without vital veteran Dearica Hamby (out with an injury)—shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone watching.

That’s not exactly what happened. The Las Vegas Aces did win 79-63 to take a 1-0 series lead, but the game was much closer than the score would indicate. Credit the Mercury and head coach Vanessa Nygaard for developing a structurally impressive game plan to stop the Aces’ high-powered offensive attack. Defensive anchor Brianna Turner made life miserable for  former-MVP A’ja Wilson, making Wilson look mortal all game long. Wilson finished with eight points on 2-11 shooting. The Aces only made 32.1 percent of their three pointers, down 4.0 percent from their season-long average. Credit Mercury players for passionately keeping this game close. Phoenix saw significant contributions from Diamond DeShields, who tallied 18 points, as well as Sophie Cunningham and Megan Gustafson, racking up 12 points each. The game was a two-possession game with just under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Mercury have heart, but the Aces remembered why they are the number one seed, going on a 28-13 run to close the game and put away the Mercury. Kelsey Plum had a huge game with 22 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young also put up impressive performances, securing 17 and 16 points, respectively.

 

 

 

 

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of WNBA Stats.

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