W.N.B.A. Playoff Preview: Don’t Crown the Seattle Storm Yet

The Las Vegas Aces bumped the Seattle Hurricane from the No. 1 spot they’d clung to for far of the season, and the protecting champion Washington Mystics — with out Elena Delle Donne and different key starters from final yr’s squad — notched a seven-point victory to say the 8th and ultimate playoff spot. It was once a becoming finish to a standard season — not on time by way of two months and performed within a so-called bubble in Florida — whose ultimate playoff seeding got here right down to the final minute.

Blockbuster loose company strikes within the low season had groups suffering to search out their stride within the season’s early going. The brand new-look and still-feisty Connecticut Solar — runners-up within the 2019 finals — overcame 5 immediately losses to start out the season to say the No. 7 seed. The Phoenix Mercury (No. Five) and Chicago Sky (No. 6), who performed every different within the first spherical of the playoffs final yr, controlled to thrive regardless of the late-season departures of superstar gamers.

Now the playoffs start with two single-elimination video games within the first spherical on Tuesday involving the Nos. Five-Eight seeds. The winners will face the 3rd and fourth seeds in single-elimination video games on Thursday for the second one spherical. The highest two seeds — the Aces and the Hurricane — will face Thursday’s winners in best-of-five semifinal sequence beginning on Sunday.

The 2020 playoffs start with 2019’s No. 1 group struggling with from the ground in a single-elimination recreation. With Washington lacking a number of gamers integral to final season’s luck, function gamers like Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins have equipped key performances, particularly overdue within the steady season. To win a championship, they’ll want extra from Emma Meesseman, whose once-electrifying Three-point taking pictures has dwindled with out Elena Delle Donne drawing defenders into the paint. Delle Donne, the reigning Maximum Treasured Participant Award winner, has no longer performed this season on account of well being considerations.

However the Mystics can profit from the Mercury’s depleted roster. Within the ultimate few video games of the steady season, the Mercury dressed as few as seven gamers. Bria Hartley — whose signing on this yr’s loose company duration reinvigorated the group’s hopes of playoff luck — is finished for the season with a knee harm. Brittney Griner, the six-time All-Superstar heart, left the bubble on the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., after 12 video games for private causes.

Nonetheless, the Three-point firepower of Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith can lend a hand the Mercury, with Kia Vaughn taking part in neatly within and Brianna Turner rebounding like a girl who desires to win a championship.

From runner-up in final yr’s finals to the No. 7 seed within the playoffs, the Solar had been on a adventure this season with Trainer Curt Miller. Connecticut misplaced the longtime fan favorites Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricklen and taken of their former Mercury rival DeWanna Bonner. Concord didn’t come simple — the Solar misplaced 5 immediately video games to start out the season — however it sounds as if to be forming on the proper time.

Bonner got here up large within the Solar’s first assembly this season in opposition to her former group, scoring 25 issues for a playoff-clinching win. However the group’s luck is going in the course of the group’s engine, Alyssa Thomas (2d in rebounding this season and main the league in steals), particularly with Jasmine Thomas coping with a foot harm.

However the Sky received’t make this a very simple matchup, even with out the All-Superstar Diamond DeShields (private causes) and Azurá Stevens (foot). Courtney Vandersloot — who recorded probably the most assists in one recreation in W.N.B.A. historical past this season (18) and averaged a double-double — will be certain that of it.

After shedding within the semifinals final yr in a three-game sweep, the Sparks are out for redemption, particularly Trainer Derek Fisher. His determination to play Candace Parker — a two-time league M.V.P. and the 2016 finals M.V.P. — simply 11 mins in that fateful Recreation Three tipped off a messy low season that noticed Penny Toler, the longtime normal supervisor, fired. The Sparks seem to have reset, particularly Parker, whose league-leading Nine.7 rebounds have saved the Sparks in video games.

A travel to the finals, on the other hand, relies on Riquna Williams maintaining her career-high 42.2 p.c Three-point taking pictures and most likely making an attempt extra photographs from vary, and on Nneka Ogwumike, who has handled accidents, returning to her profession moderate of 16.2 issues consistent with recreation. Nevertheless it might be the four-time champion Seimone Augustus who serves as the important thing for a finals bid — even off the bench.

Amid endured rebuilding round Napheesa Collier, final season’s Rookie of the Yr Award winner, the Lynx have a possibility to win all of it if the veteran Sylvia Fowles is wholesome. Fowles, the 2017 league M.V.P. and three-time Defensive Participant of the Yr Award winner, set the W.N.B.A. report for profession rebounds in July, however a calf harm has saved her off the court docket since mid-August. The Lynx omit the larger-than-life presence she will also be within the paint.

To patch within the gaps, Collier has soared previous her rookie manufacturing to close double-double averages, however postseason possibilities for this green group are unsure, despite the fact that the rookie Crystal Dangerfield has been a power at start line guard.

The excellent news for Trainer Cheryl Reeve is the boldness of the function gamers Bridget Carleton and Damiris Dantas and the obvious fearlessness of the rookie Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who by no means turns out to go into reverse in worrying video games.

The Aces jumped previous the Hurricane for the No. 1 seed by way of beating them at the ultimate day of the steady season on Sunday. With the win, the Aces secured a 2-Zero regular-season sweep of the Hurricane. The Aces spent the season with out Liz Cambage, their All-Superstar heart who has a clinical exemption this season, and Kelsey Plum, their start line guard who tore her Achilles’ tendon simply ahead of the season.

But Las Vegas discovered luck with its rapid, Three-point-shooting guards like Danielle Robinson growing room for A’ja Wilson, the 2018 rookie of the yr, to function within the paint. And the bench is so deep that it comprises Dearica Hamby, the 2019 6th Lady of the Yr Award winner, and Jackie Younger, the No. 1 total select in final yr’s draft. However the Aces’ postseason aspirations cross in the course of the five-time All-Superstar Angel McCoughtry, who, in pursuit of her first W.N.B.A. championship, imposes her will on each and every ownership conveniently.

The Hurricane’s quest for his or her 2d championship in 3 years might simply rely on Sue Hen’s gimpy knee. The W.N.B.A.’s profession assists chief, Hen is a masterful playmaker whose recreation is outlined by way of impeccable court docket imaginative and prescient and a hovering basketball I.Q. that she makes use of to power combatants to fall prey to their worst tendencies.

Despite the fact that spectacular this yr, the Hurricane had been examined — two times shedding to the top-ranked Aces and experiencing surprising defeats to the Mystics and the Indiana Fever, who ignored the playoffs. Even though Breanna Stewart, the 2018 league and finals M.V.P., has been impressive after lacking all of 2019 with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, the Hurricane can even want extra: Jewell Loyd extending her sturdy season, and Alysha Clark, a defensive-minded risk, spreading the ground along with her Three-point taking pictures. Seattle’s possibilities will give a boost to considerably if Sami Whitcomb prospers from deep and Natasha Howard reclaims the scoring and rebounding dominance of her final two seasons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *