Friday, August 19, 2022

WNBA playoff picture, standings, projections: Wings pick up huge win over Sky; three teams tied for final spot

The 2022 WNBA regular season is winding down, but the playoff race is heating up. So far, 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 a number of 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 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. 

Current standings

1. Chicago Sky (23-8) — Playoff spot clinched

2. Las Vegas Aces (22-9) — Playoff spot clinched

3. Connecticut Sun (21-10) — Playoff spot clinched

4. Washington Mystics (20-12) — Playoff spot clinched

5. Seattle Storm (19-12) — Playoff spot clinched

6. Dallas Wings (14-16)

7. Phoenix Mercury (13-18)

8. New York Liberty (12-18)

9. Los Angeles Sparks (12-18)

10. Atlanta Dream (12-18)

11. Minnesota Lynx (12-19)

12. Indiana Fever (5-27) — 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 (23-8) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 5 (incl. at Aces)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sun: won season series 3-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 New York Liberty

Candace Parker returned to the lineup on Tuesday after missing the last two games, but the Sky still suffered one of their most surprising losses of the year to the Wings. They are still all alone in first place, however, as the Aces lost to the Mystics, ending their four-game winning streak. 

2. Las Vegas Aces (22-9) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 5 (incl. vs. Sky)
  • 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

The Aces’ four-game winning streak came to an end on Tuesday with a loss to the Mystics. On the bright side, the Sky also lost so they didn’t lose any ground in the race for the No. 1 seed. With one game left against the Sky and a chance to take the tiebreaker between the two teams, first place is still within reach. 

3. Connecticut Sun (20-10) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 5
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: lost season series 0-3; vs. Aces: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. 6 Dallas Wings

The Sun were the big winners on Tuesday, as they were the only one of the top three teams to record a win. They took care of business in style, crushing the visiting Mercury by 24. They’re still a game back of the Aces and two games back of the Sky, and don’t have the tiebreaker against either team, so they’ll need some help, but Tuesday’s results gave them some hope. 

Two teams fighting for No. 4

4. Washington Mystics (20-12)

  • Games remaining: 4
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Storm: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Seattle Storm

4. Seattle Storm (19-12)

  • Games remaining: 5 
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mystics: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 4 Washington Mystics

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. On Saturday, the Storm gained the upper hand by beating the Mystics in the first game of their weekend back-to-back to secure the season series.

The Mystics have bounced back since then, however. They beat the Storm in the final matchup between the two teams this season to draw level in the standings, and then moved a half game ahead on Tuesday with a big time win over the Aces. The pressure is now on the Storm to catch them. 

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Spots 6-8 up for grabs

6. Dallas Wings (14-16)

  • Games remaining: 5 (incl. two vs. Liberty, 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

Despite playing without Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally, the Wings got their biggest result of the season on Tuesday when they went to Chicago and handed the Sky just their third home loss. With that win the Wings have opened up a two-game lead on the ninth-place Sparks and are now in the driver’s seat to claim a playoff spot.  

7. Phoenix Mercury (13-18)

  • Games remaining: 5 (incl. vs. Liberty, 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: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Lynx: lost season series 0-3
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 2 Las Vegas Aces

The Mercury’s East Coast road trip has been a disaster so far. First, a 20-point loss to the Mercury, then a 24-point loss to the Sun on Tuesday. Though they still hold sole possession of seventh place, their advantage over the ninth-place Sparks is down to half a game, and they’re only one game up on the 11th-place Lynx. Even worse, they have another game with the Sun up next. 

8. New York Liberty (12-18)

  • Games remaining: 6 (incl. vs. Sparks, at Mercury, two at Wings, at Dream, vs. Dream)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: 1-1 in season series with one games remaining; vs. Sparks: 1-1 in season series with one 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: vs. No. 1 Chicago Sky

The Liberty’s potential saving grace coming down the stretch has always been their schedule, and they’ve taken advantage in recent days with massive wins over the Mercury and Sparks. As a result they’ve jumped up into eighth place for the time being and now control their own destiny. 

9. Los Angeles Sparks (12-18)

  • Games remaining: 6 (incl. at Liberty, 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: 1-1 in season series with one games remaining; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. N/A

The Sparks’ slide continued on Tuesday as they were crushed by the Liberty at Barclays Center. They’ve now lost four games in a row and have dropped out of the playoff picture. They’ll play the Liberty again on Wednesday in what is now a must-win game. A loss would move the Sparks further away from a playoff spot and give the tiebreaker between the two teams to the Liberty. 

10. 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. 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 should things remain close down the stretch. 

11. Minnesota Lynx (12-19)

  • Games remaining: 5 (incl. vs. Dream)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: won season series 3-0; vs. Sparks: won season series 2-1; 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

The Lynx were on the ropes just a few days ago but this team will just not give up. After two straight wins over fellow playoff hopefuls the Dream and Sparks, they’re now just half a game behind the eighth-place Liberty and own the tiebreaker between the teams. Their remaining schedule is tough, but they’re still in the mix. 

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 one game 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 (5-27)

The Fever have now lost 14 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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