We said seven days ago that, practically, everything was solved at the top of the WNBA classification. That, in the remaining two weeks of competition, it only remained to be resolved which two teams would win the last places for the playoffs. Well, the latter is still true. The rest? All lie.
The end of the regular league has tightened more than expected. Unexpected results here, small post-Olympic collapses there, calendars that complicate the lives of a few. So today, beyond certain certainties almost one hundred percent closed – that the Connecticut Sun are already in the semifinals, that the Chicago Sky are going to finish in sixth place – everything else is to be decided. And beware, the deadline is close: Sunday, September 19, last games of the regular season.
It also happens that the structure of the WNBA causes that this is not a trivial issue: the first two of the regular league take a direct pass to the semifinals, while the third and fourth win a bye to the second round. Fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth will have to face each other in the first round.
So this last week he’s going to make the difference between going on vacation for nine days or playing two more rounds. And that matters. Much.
CONNECTICUT IS LOOKING FOR A COMPANION FOR SEMIFINALS
Oh, the holidays, how rich you know the holidays, they must be thinking about the Connecticut Sun wardrobe. Next Sunday, September 19, the first two teams in the league will earn their direct pass to the semifinals for the title — which do not begin until September 28 — and the Uncasville teams will surely be one of them. In addition, they have all the ballots to do it as first.
The matter is simple. The Sun lead the WNBA with a 23-6 record, they have three regular league games left and in order to win one they will finish as leaders. The schedule is not the most complicated: visit Phoenix, at home against New York, at home against Atlanta, which is no longer playing anything.
It happens, to kill any additional doubts, that they are the fittest team in the league. They have eleven victories in a row and are coming off two merciless beatings: Dallas Wings (83-56) and Los Angeles Sparks (75-57). The recipe was the same as always. Defense, Jonquel Jones MVP mode and a bit of his fancy squads — DeWanna Bonner, Brionna Jones, Jasmine Thomas. There is only one doubt with the Sun: their very low bench depth. May be a problem. It will be, in any case, after the holidays.
The question they ask themselves now is: who is going to ask for the hammock next door?
LOTS TO DECIDE: LAS VEGAS, SEATTLE, MINNESOTA, PHOENIX
This is where things get tricky. Life changes a lot depending on where each team finishes next Sunday. Second place sends you on vacation with Jonquel Jones and co. The third or fourth place means eating the brown of playing on September 26 a second round to a single match. And then there is the double brown: going to a first round, also a single match, on September 23 to be able to move on to that second round on September 26.
Las Vegas, Minnesota, Seattle and Phoenix are the four franchises involved in this qualifying mess. And so it is that they face these last nine days each of them.
- Las Vegas Aces (21-8): Despite their loss to Chicago on Sunday, Nevadans are knocking on the Sun’s hotel door. Hello, please, can we come in? They have two acceptable games ahead of them —Dallas at home, visit Chicago— and they have come from making an offensive demonstration against Minnesota Lynx, one of their rivals in this miniliguilla end of course. The problem? That in the last game they visit the Phoenix Mercury, who right now have 10 wins in a row. Either they fix it fast, or turbulence.
- Phoenix Mercury (19-10): And it would seem that those of Arizona are, due to that state of form, clear candidates, at least, for third place, to skip a round. If not, of course, for a small detail: the calendar. The three remaining games are Connecticut, Las Vegas and Seattle. First, second and third. As if that weren’t enough, Taurasi and Grinner have been away for several games. Ugh, what a stress.
- Seattle Storm (20-10): To add more chicha to the last week, it happens that the defending champions and, until recently, clear candidates for third place, are not at their best: the Seattle Storm record after the games is 4-5. However, their reliability in important parties and the fact that they depend on themselves makes their candidacy to the bye for the second round certainly plausible. They have two games: Los Angeles and Phoenix. If they win, both are inside. If not? Well, double brown.
- Minnesota Lynx (18-10): Because the situation makes it all or nothing for Seattle and Phoenix. From behind, Minnesota does not look like it is going to fail. The Lynx have four games left, and three of them are against Indiana, the worst team in the league and nothing is being played anymore. The other is against Washington, which may already be in that moment with no chance of getting into the playoffs.
The summary: that we have a wonderful preamble to the end of the regular league before starting the playoffs. It’s time to enjoy it.
- Yes, again Jonquel Jones: The Connecticut Sun center continues to accumulate awards this 2021 season, which will grant him, except for surprise, his first MVP. The Bahamian was named Player of the Week in the Eastern Conference, while Britney Grinner took the award in the West.
- Astou Ndour-Fall: The Spanish returned to the courts after her minor injury last Sunday, and did so with double joy: victory and a good performance at the individual level (6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks in 15 minutes). Hit the ground running for the playoffs.
- The GOAT: To celebrate your 25th birthday, and after having announced the list of the 25 best players in their history, the WNBA is now looking for the best player of all, its Greatest Of All Time. You can vote on the WNBA page until September 19.
(Cover photo by Steph Chambers / Getty Images)