The Las Vegas Aces are the favorites to become the first repeat WNBA champions since the Lisa Leslie-led 2001 and 2002 Los Angeles Sparks. Vegas enters the playoffs with the top-ranked offense and defense in the league and a roster loaded with playoff experienced stars: A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray and more.
Standing in their way are the New York Liberty, the team that has the second-best record in the league, the best offensive and defensive ratings since Aug. 1, and a team that beat the Aces two out of three times in the past month, including to win the Commissioner’s Cup. New York has its own lineup of stars: Breanna Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones, Betnijah Laney, and the list goes on.
A New York vs. Las Vegas showdown for the WNBA crown has felt destined since before the season even tipped off, but six other teams in the WNBA playoffs are intent on thwarting that destiny.
How do the WNBA Playoffs work? When do they start?
There are 12 WNBA teams and the league has (wisely) done away with conferences. Teams play 40 games, with the top eight advancing to the playoffs (when the teams can finally start to fly charter, as they should have been allowed to do all season).
The first round is a best-of-three — with games starting Wednesday, Sept. 13 — which presents a real chance for an upset. The semi-finals are a best-of-five series (2-2-1) and we will see two games a day starting Sept. 24.
The WNBA Finals are a best-of-five starting on Oct. 8. The Las Vegas Aces, at 34-6, are the top seed and would have home court advantage throughout the postseason.
— WNBA (@WNBA) September 10, 2023
Here are the WNBA’s best-of-three first-round matchups with the schedule (all times Eastern), where to watch, a quick preview of the series. These will be updated with results as the games occur (*= if necessary).
WNBA PLAYOFFS FIRST ROUND
Las Vegas Aces (1) vs. Chicago Sky (8)
Game 1: at Las Vegas, 10 p.m, Sept. 13 (ESPN)
Game 2: at Las Vegas, 3 p.m. Sept. 16 (ABC)
Game 3*: Las Vegas at Chicago, TBD, Sept. 20 (ESPN)
Chicago is an organization with a championship pedigree (it won it all just two years ago in 2021) and one of the stars that led them there in Kahleah Cooper. Unfortunately, the Sky are about to run into a juggernaut. The Sky’s defense just isn’t good enough to slow the Aces down and keep the series close.
New York Liberty (2) vs. Washington Mystics (7)
Game 1: at New York, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15 (ESPN2)
Game 2: at New York, 7 p.m., Sept. 19 (ESPN)
Game 3*: at Washington, TBD, Sept. 22 (ESPN2)
Washington is no average No. 7 seed, this is a top-four WNBA roster that battled injuries early but has gotten healthy and come together of late. The Mystics beat the Liberty 90-88 last weekend, playing strong in the paint and with an impressive perimeter trio of Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Skyes and Natasha Cloud (watch for Skyes to have a great series). The Liberty are elite and one of the best clutch teams in the league behind Ionescu, but the Mystics can undoubtedly force a Game 3 on their home court, where anything can happen.
Connecticut Sun (3) vs. Minnesota Lynx (6)
Game 1: at Connecticut, 8 p.m. Sept. 13 (ESPN2)
Game 2: at Connecticut, 1 p.m. Sept. 17 (ESPN)
Game 3*: at Minnesota, TBD, Sept. 20 (ESPN)
Connecticut’s success is based around the second-best defense in the WNBA this season and, as great as Napheesa Collier has been this season (and every season, she may be the most underrated player in the WNBA in the minds of casual fans), that will be tough for Minnesota to overcome. DeWanna Bonner, who has two WNBA rings to her name and knows how to win, leads a balanced Sun attack.
Dallas Wings (4) vs. Atlanta Dream (5)
Game 1: at Dallas, 9:30 p.m., Sept. 15 (ESPN2)
Game 2: at Dallas, 9 p.m., Sept. 19 (ESPN)
Game 3*: at Atlanta, TBD, Sept. 22 (ESPN2)
This is a tough matchup for Atlanta — Dallas was 5.5 points per 100 possessions better during the regular season, and they have the third-best offense in the WNBA. The Wings also have scoring from Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally (who has had a breakout season), plus just more size along the front line that will be hard for Rhyne Howard, Allisha Gray and the rest of the Dream to deal with.