Tuesday, September 27, 2022

WNBA playoff picture, standings, tiebreakers explained: Four-way tie for seventh place causing chaos

As the final week of the 2022 WNBA regular season continues there are still two playoff spots up for grabs, and four teams tied for seventh place at 14-20. There is still only one team — the lowly Indiana Fever — who has been eliminated, and the Dallas Wings (sixth) are the only team with a locked-in seed. That leaves plenty to play for in what should be a dramatic last few days. 

As a reminder, the WNBA 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. 

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Current standings

1. Chicago Sky (25-9) — Playoff spot clinched

2. Las Vegas Aces (24-10) — Playoff spot clinched

3. Connecticut Sun (22-11) — Playoff spot clinched

4. Seattle Storm (21-13) — Playoff spot clinched

5. Washington Mystics (20-14) — Playoff spot clinched

6. Dallas Wings (17-16) — Playoff spot clinched

7. Minnesota Lynx (14-20)

8. Atlanta Dream (14-20)

9. New York Liberty (14-20)

10. Phoenix Mercury (14-20)

11. Los Angeles Sparks (13-21)

12. Indiana Fever (5-29) — Eliminated

Note: In the event of a multi-team tie, such as there is for seventh place right now, the tiebreaker becomes the combined head-to-head record against the other teams. Thus, the order for Nos. 7-10 is Lynx (8-2), Dream (4-4), Liberty (3-5), Mercury (3-7). 

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 (25-9) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 2 (vs. at Aces, at Mercury)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sun: won season series 4-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 Atlanta Dream

The Sky’s defense was nowhere to be found on Tuesday night, as they fell to the Storm in a shootout. Now, their lead over the Aces in the race for the No. 1 seed is down to just one game ahead of the showdown between the two teams on Thursday night. That game will determine the tiebreaker between the two clubs, and if the Sky win they’ll clinch first place. 

2. Las Vegas Aces (24-10) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 2 (vs. Sky, vs. Storm)
  • 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 Minnesota Lynx

The Aces appear to be back on track after they took down the Dream on Tuesday night for their second straight win. They are now just a game behind the Sky for the top seed and home-court advantage in the first round, and will play them on Thursday night in a highly anticipated matchup. If the Aces win that game they will grab the upper hand in the race for the No. 1 seed; if they lose they will be eliminated from contention for that spot. 

Sun likely to shine in third place

3. Connecticut Sun (23-11) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 2 (at Sparks, vs. Lynx)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: lost season series 0-4; vs. Aces: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. 6 Dallas Wings

The Sun crushed the travel-weary Sparks on Tuesday to clinch at least a top-three seed and maintain their slim hopes of catching the Aces for the No. 2 seed. They need to win out and have the Aces lose out for that to happen, however, which means they will most likely be the No. 3 seed. 

Two teams fighting for No. 4

4. Seattle Storm (21-13)

  • Games remaining: 2 (at Lynx, at Aces)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mystics: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Washington Mystics

5. Washington Mystics (20-14)

  • Games remaining: 2 (at Fever, vs. Fever)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Storm: lost season series 1-2
  • 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 home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Storm picked up their biggest win of the season on Tuesday as they scored 111 points in a win over the first-place Sky. 

With two games left to play for both clubs, the Storm are now one game ahead and have the tiebreaker. That means they need just one win or one Mystics loss to clinch the No. 4 seed. The Mystics’ only hope is to win out and have the Storm lose out. 

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Wings locked into sixth

6. Dallas Wings (17-17)

  • Games remaining: 2 (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: won season series 2-1; vs. Lynx: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun

The Wings are going back to the playoffs, and now they have been locked into the No. 6 seed. Despite a loss to the Liberty on Wednesday night, the Wings are now three games behind fifth and three games ahead of seventh with two games to play. They can now get some players some rest and start preparing for next week. 

Last two spots up for grabs

7. Minnesota Lynx (14-20)

  • Games remaining: 2 (vs. Storm, at Sun)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: won season series 4-0; vs. Sparks: won season series 2-1; vs. Wings: lost season series 1-2; vs. Dream: won season series 2-1; vs. Liberty: won season series 2-1 
  • Current first-round matchup: No. 2 Las Vegas Aces

The Lynx’s late-season surge continued on Wednesday as they beat the Mercury for their fourth win in five games. With four teams now tied at 14-20, the Lynx have grabbed seventh place by virtue of owning the best combined head-to-head record against the four other teams at 8-2. 

8. Atlanta Dream (14-20)

  • Games remaining: 2 (vs. Liberty, at Liberty)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: won season series 2-1; Sparks: won season series 2-1; vs. Wings: won season series 2-1; vs. Liberty: 1-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 1 Chicago Sky

The shorthanded Dream ran out of gas in the fourth quarter on Tuesday and fell to the Aces for their second straight loss. This is not a good time for a mini losing streak, but the Dream are hanging on to eighth place by virtue of their 4-4 record against the three other teams tied at 14-20. 

9. New York Liberty (14-20)

  • Games remaining: 2 (at Dream, vs. Dream)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: lost season series 1-2; vs. Sparks: won season series 2-1; vs. Wings: lost season series 1-2; 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 got back in the win column on Wednesday with an impressive performance against the Wings that featured 50 points from their bench. Now among the four teams tied at 14-20, they sit in ninth place because they have the third-best combined head-to-head record against the other teams at 3-5. 

10. Phoenix Mercury (14-20)

  • Games remaining: 2 (vs. Wings, vs. Sky)
  • 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: won season series 2-1; vs. Lynx: lost season series 0-4
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A

The Mercury were once again without Skylar Diggins-Smith (personal reasons) and Diana Taurasi (quad) on Wednesday, and this time they didn’t have enough against the Lynx. With that defeat they dropped to 14-20, and into the four-way tie. Their 3-7 record against the three other teams is the worst in the bunch, which means they now sit in 10th. 

11. Los Angeles Sparks (13-21)

  • Games remaining: 2 (vs. Sun, vs. Wings)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: 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: lost season series 1-2; vs. Liberty: lost season series 1-2; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. N/A

The Sparks were always going to have a tough time with the Sun on Tuesday, but especially so after their travel fiasco this weekend that saw them spend a night at the airport. They suffered a demoralizing 26-point loss and are now on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention. 

Eliminated

12. Indiana Fever (5-29)

The Fever have now lost 16 straight games and were the first team eliminated from the playoffs. With a sixth straight lottery appearance on the way, they’ll be hoping for some luck with the ping pong balls to help end the worst stretch in franchise history. 

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