Saturday, August 13, 2022

WNBA playoff picture, standings, projections: Storm, Mystics clinch postseason berths

With just over two weeks left in the 2022 WNBA regular season, the playoff picture is starting to heat up. Five teams have punched their tickets to the playoffs — the Chicago Sky, Las Vegas Aces, Connecticut Sun, Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics — while the Indiana Fever are the only team to be eliminated. 

Looking closer, there have been no seeds locked in, and some exciting races remain. The top three teams are all in the hunt for the No. 1 seed; the Storm and Mystics are battling it out for fourth; and six teams from 6th-11th are in a real scrap for the final three spots. 

As a reminder, the league has once again changed its playoff system. While the top eight teams will still make the playoffs, there are no more byes. Instead, every team will begin play in the first round with a standard bracket format that features the No. 1 seed vs. the No. 8 seed, the No. 2 seed vs. the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed vs. the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed vs. the No. 5 seed. The bracket will not be re-seeded after the first round. 

The first-round matchups will be best-of-three series, with the higher seed playing Games 1 and 2 at home, and the lower seed hosting Game 3. The semifinals and Finals will both be best-of-five series with a 2-2-1 format, which means the higher seeds will host Games 1, 2 and 5, while the lower seeded team will host Games 3 and 4. 

Current standings

1. Chicago Sky (22-7) — Playoff spot clinched

2. Las Vegas Aces (21-8) — Playoff spot clinched

3. Connecticut Sun (20-9) — Playoff spot clinched

4. Seattle Storm (19-11) — Playoff spot clinched

5. Washington Mystics (18-12) — Playoff spot clinched

6. Dallas Wings (13-16)

7. Phoenix Mercury (13-16)

8. Los Angeles Sparks (12-16)

9. Atlanta Dream (12-18)

10. New York Liberty (10-17)

11. Minnesota Lynx (11-19)

12. Indiana Fever (5-26) — Eliminated

As the action continues down the stretch, here’s a closer look at the playoff picture: 

Race for the No. 1 seed

1. Chicago Sky (22-7) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 7 (incl. at Sun, vs. Sun and at Aces)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sun: 2-0 in season series with two games remaining
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Sparks

2. Las Vegas Aces (21-8) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 7 (incl. vs. Sun)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sun: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 7 Phoenix Mercury

3. Connecticut Sun (20-9) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 7 (incl. vs. Sky and at Sky)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: 0-2 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Aces: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 6 Dallas Wings

The Sky are currently alone in first place but have the Aces and Sun right on their heels. And with one game left against the Sky and two versus the Sun, the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs is still up for grabs. 

With their current lead and the chance to seize the tiebreakers against both the Aces and the Sun, the Sky have to be considered favorites to claim the top spot. However, it’s worth noting that the Aces are 5-1 since the All-Star break and just beat them in the Commissioner’s Cup final, while the Sun are 6-1 since the break. 

Two teams fighting for No. 4

4. Seattle Storm (18-11)

  • Games remaining: 6 (incl. at Mystics)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mystics: won season series 2-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Washington Mystics

5. Washington Mystics (18-11)

  • Games remaining: 6 (incl. vs. Storm)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Storm: lost season series 0-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 4 Seattle Storm

One of the tightest races right now is in the middle of the standings where the Storm and Mystics are going head-to-head for fourth place and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. On Saturday, the Storm gained the upper hand by beating the Mystics in the first game of their weekend back-to-back. As a result, Seattle has won the tiebreaker between the two teams and moved a game ahead in the standings. 

Fourth is still well up for grabs, however, especially if Washington can get a win on Sunday in the final meeting between the teams. While the Mystics can’t win the tiebreaker, they would draw the teams level in the standings with five games to play each. 

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Spots 6-8 up for grabs

6. Dallas Wings (13-16)

  • Games remaining: 7 (incl. vs. Liberty x2, at Mercury, at Sparks)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: 2-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sparks: 1-2 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Dream: lost season series 1-2; vs. Liberty: 1-0 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun

The Wings lost seven of their last 10 games heading into Saturday but picked up a massive victory over the Dream to get back on track. In addition, they jumped all the way up to sixth in the crowded standings. They still have plenty of work to do, but beating the Dream was a massive step toward a second straight playoff appearance. 

7. Phoenix Mercury (13-16)

  • Games remaining: 7 (incl. at Liberty, vs. Liberty and vs. Wings)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sparks: season series tied 2-2, currently own tiebreaker via better record against teams above .500; vs. Wings: 1-2 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Dream: lost season series 1-2; vs. Liberty: 1-0 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: lost season series 0-3
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 2 Las Vegas Aces

With Skylar Diggins-Smith leading the way, the Mercury have won two straight to jump into seventh. That’s a solid position to be in for now, but they’re about to embark on a difficult three-game East Coast road trip that includes two matchups with the red-hot Sun. 

8. Los Angeles Sparks (12-16)

  • Games remaining: 8 (incl. vs. Lynx, at Liberty x2, at Dream, vs. Wings)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sparks: season series tied 2-2, currently losing tiebreaker via worse record against teams above .500; vs. Wings: 2-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Dream: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Liberty: 1-0 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 1 Chicago Sky

The Sparks are trending down again, and their next four games are against fellow playoff hopefuls, with three of them coming on the road. This stretch is going to be vital for the Sparks, who are just one game up on the ninth-place Dream, whom they play on Aug. 5. 

9. Atlanta Dream (12-18)

  • Games remaining: 6 (incl. vs. Sparks, at Lynx, vs. Liberty, at Liberty)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: won season series 2-1; Sparks: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Wings: won season series 2-1; vs. Liberty: 1-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A

There’s never a good time for a four-game losing streak, but the final month of the season is especially painful. This current slide has dropped the Dream out of the playoff picture, and after a crushing defeat on  Saturday against the Wings, they’re now a full game out of eighth. The good news is that they’ve either won or are tied in every single tiebreaker, which could give them the upper hand for a playoff spot come the end of the season. 

10. Minnesota Lynx (11-19)

  • Games remaining: 6 (incl. at Sparks, vs. Dream)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: won season series 3-0; vs. Sparks: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Wings: lost season series 1-2; vs. Dream: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Liberty: won season series 2-1 
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A

Despite a mid-season surge to make their record look more respectable, the Lynx will likely not make the playoffs. They’ve played the most games and have the worst record of this bunch, but seeing as they’re within two games of eighth place and have won a few tiebreakers, we’ll include them for now. 

11. New York Liberty (10-18)

  • Games remaining: 8 (incl. vs. Mercury, vs. Sparks x2, at Mercury, at Wings x2, at Dream, vs. Dream)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: 0-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Sparks: 0-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Wings: 0-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Dream: 1-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A

The Liberty couldn’t take advantage of Candace Parker’s absence on Friday night, losing a narrow contest to the Sky. As a result, they’re now 2-8 in their last 10 games and have dropped down to 11th place. Their playoff hopes are fading, but all eight of their remaining games are against fellow playoff contenders, so if they get hot they could still claw their way in. 

The bottom of the playoff picture is something of a mess, with the six teams between sixth and 11th in the standings separated by just 2.5 games. Each team has at least two games left against the other teams in this group, and only a handful of tiebreakers have been settled. All of which means these current standings are not going to stay the same for long. 

Eliminated

12. Indiana Fever (5-26)

The Fever were the first team eliminated from the playoffs and will be back in the lottery for the sixth straight season. This is the worst stretch in franchise history, and they’ll be hoping for some luck with the ping pong balls later this year. 

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