The WNBA regular season ends in two days. With the shortened campaign, it came and went in the blink of an eye, but we’re just around the corner from the playoffs.
Seven teams have punched their tickets to the postseason, with the eighth position still up for grabs in the season’s final days. But that doesn’t mean the bracket is set in stone. Far from it.
Tonight, tomorrow and Sunday, nine games will be played to conclude the regular season and solidify the final standings. Some will be more impactful than others in determining who’s in, who’s out and seeding. If you’ve got a busy weekend ahead of you but want to keep tabs on the WNBA regular season finish, we’ve got you covered. Here are the games you need to circle in the final stretch of the 2020 campaign.
Las Vegas Aces at Seattle Storm (Sunday, Sept. 13 at 3 p.m. on ABC)
Seattle and Las Vegas have been the two best teams in this shortened season, and on the final day of the regular season, they will meet with the No. 1 seed potentially on the line.
The Storm will be no lower than No. 2 when the playoffs roll around, but that No. 1 spot won’t be safe before this matchup without some help. The Aces have stayed right on Seattle’s tail, currently sitting one game behind it heading into Friday night’s action.
Seattle point guard Sue Bird has battled knee issues this summer, only featuring in 11 of her team’s 20 games so far, and a collision Wednesday makes her status even more questionable. With a double bye already secured, it’s possible the Storm will sit Bird until they have to play in the semifinals. But this team is more than capable of winning its final two contests, including this date with the Aces, and taking the No. 1 seed.
Las Vegas has just as much control over its destiny. After taking care of the Minnesota Lynx, 104-89, on Thursday, the Aces now need to win their last two games, including this one against the Storm, to be the top seed in 2020. With great depth coming off the bench in Dearica Hamby and Jackie Young, plus a loaded starting five, the Aces have to be one of the favorites to win the whole thing. This game on the final day of the regular season could very reasonably be a preview of the 2020 WNBA Finals.
Seattle Storm at Phoenix Mercury (Friday, Sept. 11 at 10 p.m. on CBSSN)
I’ve explained Seattle’s situation, so you know the Storm sit in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed. Even with a loss to Phoenix in this one, the top seed would still come down to the final game against Las Vegas, so for the Storm, this game doesn’t hold the same importance it does for Phoenix. What this game means for the Mercury is why it’s on this list.
Phoenix lost two of its most important pieces last month – Brittney Griner to personal reasons and Bria Hartley to a knee injury – but has been one of the hottest teams in the WNBA to close out the regular season. The team has climbed up the standings, and heading into Friday’s action, the Mercury are in fourth place and in position to earn a bye through to the second round.
But it’s a thin margin. Phoenix is where it is because its holds the tiebreaker over the Lynx, and a win over the Storm on Friday would ensure that remains regardless of what Minnesota does in its last game against the Indiana Fever on Saturday. A loss would provide an opportunity for the Lynx to overtake their western foes and force Phoenix to play in the playoff’s first round.
Outside of the seeding ramifications of this one, you’ll also be treated to two of the best teams in the league and some of the best players the world has to offer. These are two of the most stories franchises in the WNBA. Those factors automatically make this one compelling, but the added importance for the Mercury makes it a must-watch.
Chicago Sky at Dallas Wings (Friday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. on CBSSN)
There is a clear gap in the standings between the top five seeds and the lower three playoff spots, and both of these teams find themselves battling for the three scraps left at the bottom of the postseason pile.
Chicago is currently in sixth with a one-game advantage over the Connecticut Sun, and Dallas is in eighth with a tiebreaker keeping it above Washington for the No. 8 seed. The Sky are among the seven teams that have already secured their spot in the 2020 postseason, but they’re still vying for seeding. But with no home court advantage in these WNBA Playoffs, being the No. 6 or No. 7 seed holds no real difference, and those are the only two options for Chicago this late into the campaign. The significance of this one for the Sky, though, is momentum. Chicago started the bubble campaign 10-5, but it has been almost a calendar month since the team beat a playoff-bound side (84-82 versus Las Vegas on Aug. 18). Now, the Sky are 11-10 and without Diamond DeShields (personal reasons) and Azura Stevens (knee), and the team has been struggling. Something, anything positive is needed for this squad heading into the most important part of the year.
For Dallas, this game could be the difference between staying or going from the bubble at the conclusion of the regular season. The Wings are in the No. 8 spot right now, but only just barely, with Washington and Atlanta breathing down their necks. Dallas controls its own destiny, though, holding a one-game lead over the Dream and having the tiebreaker versus the Mystics. The Wings have two games remaining – this one against Chicago and a date on the final regular season day versus last-place and hapless New York – and might need to win both to stay in a postseason position. The Liberty could ruin their season, but New York has won two games all season. It’s most likely going to be the Sky, if anyone, who rains on the Dallas parade, and Washington and Atlanta would love to see it.
Las Vegas Aces at Los Angeles Sparks (Saturday, Sept. 12 at 3 p.m. on NBATV)
Before the Aces can think about earning the No. 1 seed, though, they’ll need to lock down a double bye.
The Sparks are right on the heels of Las Vegas, coming into the weekend 1.5 games behind their western counterparts. It’s too much for Los Angeles to overcome to get into a top two position with only this game remaining of its schedule following an 80-72 defeat to the Washington Mystics on Thursday. But Las Vegas still has the No. 1 seed on its mind, and it will need this one to get there.
Beyond the effect this game could have on seeding, it could also be a preview of a semifinals matchup. Los Angeles will be the No. 3 seed, and if Las Vegas is the No. 2 seed, one win for the Sparks would cause a rematch of this one in the penultimate round of the 2020 WNBA Playoffs. These have been two of the best teams in the league this season, and if you’re a WNBA buff, you’ll enjoy any time they share a court.
Washington Mystics at Atlanta Dream (Sunday, Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. on Facebook/Local)
Currently, Washington sits at ninth in the league and right on the wrong side of the postseason cutline, losing the tiebreaker to the Wings for the final playoff spot. Atlanta is right behind it in 10th place and one game behind the ‘Stics and Wings. All three teams have two games left each, and this will be the last regular season showdown for Washington and Atlanta.
Now, this game might not matter by the time it comes around. It’s possible that Dallas will take care of its business and secure the No. 8 seed all on its own, locking Washington and Atlanta out. But if the Wings have one misstep in their last two matchups versus the Chicago Sky on Friday or the New York Liberty on Sunday, the door could be left open for the winner of this one to swoop in and snatch that playoff berth.
Monitor the scores to be sure this one maintains its significance, but if the chips fall a certain way, this could end up being a direct play-in game for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, and really, you can’t ask for much more than that.