WNBA playoffs cheat sheet: Why the Storm are front-runners for final playoff berth

ByMechelle Voepel ESPN logo
Friday, September 1, 2017

The Seattle Storm has faced a fair amount of frustration this season, but this much they have in their favor: They are, technically, in the driver's seat for the last available playoff spot.

The other seven are filled; Dallas was the latest to clinch its postseason berth, on Wednesday. Seattle is 14-18, and Chicago and Atlanta are both 12-20. If the Storm win at least one of their final two games -- at Washington on Friday and at Chicago on Sunday -- they're in the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.

Seattle potentially could even lose both games and still make it in -- as long as Chicago and Atlanta each lose at least one of their last two games.

However, Seattle would lose a tiebreaker to either Chicago or Atlanta if the Storm finish with the same record as the Sky or the Dream. And if all three teams end up 14-20, Chicago would get the playoff spot based on having the best head-to-head record against the other two.

Nothing has been easy for the Storm this season, and that includes this past weekend. They were hoping to clinch a playoff spot and see Sue Bird get the WNBA's career assist record last Sunday in their final regular-season home game, against Phoenix. But the Mercury won 75-71, and Bird got just three of the six assists she needed to reach 2,600 and pass Ticha Penicheiro.

With three assists Friday at Washington, Bird will have the record. No doubt she is more concerned with getting the victory and the playoff spot. The Storm are 1-1 this season against the Mystics, winning 81-71 in Seattle on May 21 and losing 100-70 in Washington, D.C., on June 27.

The Sky and the Dream each have to win both of their remaining games to have a chance at the playoffs, and they'll be on the road Friday against the top two teams in the league. Chicago faces Minnesota, while Atlanta meets Los Angeles. On Sunday, the Sky host Seattle, and the Dream are at Phoenix.

At the top

The Lynx (25-7) and Sparks (24-8) already have double-byes into the best-of-five semifinals, but they both still have something to play for: being the No. 1 seed and having home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

If the Lynx win out, they'll have that. But if both teams finish 26-8, the Sparks will be the top seed because they won the season series 2-1. Sunday, Minnesota will host Washington, and Los Angeles hosts Connecticut.

Next in line

The Sun are in third place at 21-11, with New York in fourth at 20-12. Both already have first-round byes and will host second-round single-elimination games on Sept. 10.

Who will be the No. 3 seed and who will be No. 4 depends on how they finish this weekend. Connecticut plays at Phoenix on Friday before traveling to Los Angeles on Sunday. New York is at home Friday against San Antonio, then finishes Sunday at Dallas.

If Connecticut and New York end up tied at 22-12, it gets more complicated, as they tied their season series 2-2. The next tiebreaker would be their winning percentage against teams at or above .500 at season's end.

Seeds 5-7

Right now, they're in this order:

Washington: 17-15

Phoenix: 16-16

Dallas: 16-17

The No. 5 and 6 seeds will host single-elimination first-round games on Sept. 7 against the No. 7 and 8 seeds.

The Mystics host Seattle on Friday and end at Minnesota on Sunday. Phoenix is home for its final games those two days, against Connecticut and Atlanta. And Dallas has just one game left, at home Sunday against New York.

So there are multiple ways this could go. But one thing to keep in mind: If all three finish at 17-17, Phoenix wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a 4-2 record against the other two and would be the No. 5 seed. Dallas would be No. 6 at 3-3, and Washington No. 7 at 2-4.

With the first two rounds being win-or-go-home situations, getting a chance to host these games is a big deal. So a lot is still on the line.