WNBA Playoffs 2019 Preview

The WNBA season started with 12 teams holding onto a dream. That number has officially been cut to eight with the end of the regular season, and it’ll shrink even smaller soon.

The postseason is here, and it begins tonight with a doubleheader as the No. 8 seed Phoenix Mercury travel to Chicago to challenge the fifth-seeded Sky to tip off the 2019 WNBA Playoffs.

Before looking any deeper, let’s review the playoffs schedule (all times Eastern):

WNBA Playoffs First Round (Single Elimination) – Wednesday, Sept. 11

  • No. 8 Phoenix Mercury at No. 5 Chicago Sky – 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • No. 7 Minnesota Lynx at No. 6 Seattle Storm – 10 p.m. (ESPN2)

WNBA Playoffs Second Round (Single Elimination) – Sunday, Sept. 15

  • TBD at No. 3 Los Angeles Sparks – 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • TBD at No. 4 Las Vegas Aces – 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

WNBA Playoffs Semifinals (Best-of-Five Series)

TBD vs No. 1 Washington Mystics

  • Game 1 (at Washington) – Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Game 2 (at Washington) – Thursday, Sept. 19 at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Game 3 (at TBD) – Sunday, Sept. 22 (ESPN2)
  • Game 4 (at TBD) – Tuesday, Sept. 24 (ESPN2)
  • Game 5 (at Washington) – Thursday, Sept. 26 (ESPN2)

TBD vs No. 2 Connecticut Sun

  • Game 1 (at Connecticut) – Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Game 2 (at Connecticut) – Thursday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Game 3 (at TBD) – Sunday, Sept. 22 (ESPN2)
  • Game 4 (at TBD) – Tuesday, Sept. 24 (ESPN2)
  • Game 5 (at Connecticut) – Thursday, Sept. 26 (ESPN2)

WNBA Finals (Best-of-Five Series)

  • Game 1 – Sunday, Sept. 29 (ESPN)
  • Game 2 – Tuesday, Oct. 1 (ESPN)
  • Game 3 – Sunday, Oct. 6 (ABC)
  • Game 4 – Tuesday, Oct. 8 (ESPN)
  • Game 5 – Thursday, Oct. 10 (ESPN)

In one month’s time, we will crown a champion of the 2019 WNBA campaign. We have a long way to go before then, though, and there are some key storylines to follow this postseason. Here are some of the top developments to keep an eye on:

Is this finally Washington’s year?

The Mystics won a franchise-record 26 games in the regular season, which was good enough to lock up the No. 1 seed. Superstar Elena Delle Donne was the league’s second-leading scorer this season with 19.5 points per game and completed the WNBA’s first-ever 50-40-90 campaign, shooting 51.5 percent from the field, 43.0 percent from three-point land and 97.4 percent from the charity stripe. She is undoubtedly one of the strongest forces the W has ever seen, and the team around her has performed excellently to this point.

Washington made it’s first appearance in the WNBA Finals last season and is still seeking its inaugural championship. In our WNBA prestige rankings from earlier in the summer, the ‘Stics ranked ninth among the 12 active teams in the league. The season the team has already had will been a boost in the updated rankings, but how well it does in the postseason will really make the difference. With a title, Washington would join that exclusive club, and Delle Donne would have the perfect finish to her stellar season.

What’s going on in Vegas?

The Aces appeared to be moving up in the world with the return of A’ja Wilson early last month, but now there is uncertainty surrounding the team. Wilson, Liz Cambage and Dearica Hamby all need floor time, and scoring from guards Kelsey Plum and Kayla McBride has been inconsistent as of late, with the two sometimes going off and sometimes hitting way more iron than net.

We know how much talent this team has, and there have been times where it has shined in a big way this season. But the playoffs don’t allow much room for error. We know what Las Vegas is capable of, but will it be able to put it together with enough consistency to make a deep run?

Can the Storm defend their title?

Seattle found itself in a bind in 2019, one year after winning the franchise’s third championship. Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, two of the biggest names in the sport and key component’s to the team’s triumph in 2018, both suffered season-ending injuries early on. It wasn’t a question of whether or not the Storm could win the league again but if they could even make the postseason.

The answer to that question is yes, and a big reason why was the step forward Natasha Howard took as she helped fill the void left by Stewart and Bird. The team has rallied around its defense, holding opponents to a league-best 75.1 points per game. Seattle did enough in the regular season to claw its way back into the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

But can it do enough to defend its 2018 run? Given the team’s seeding and overall ability, the answer is probably not, but that doesn’t matter. We know that locker room houses winners, and everyone in the postseason has a chance. The Storm would have to go a long way, but it’s possible.

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