Everything you need to know about the 2023 WNBA playoffs
🏀 The set-up
Unlike most other pro sports where postseason berths are decided by divisional or conference standings, eight of the W’s 12 teams qualify for the three-round playoffs regardless of conference.
- The first round is best-of-three, with the higher seed hosting both Games 1 and 2. The semifinals and finals ramp up to best-of-five, and tip off on September 24th and October 8th, respectively. Let’s get it started.
☀️ No. 3 Connecticut Sun vs. 🐱 No. 6 Minnesota Lynx — Tonight at 8 p.m. ET
SOURCE: SUN LEAD/X
The matchup: The Sun are seeking a return to the Finals after finishing as runners-up in 2022, and their path forward looks clear given they won the regular-season battle with Minnesota, toppling them in three of four contests this year.
- That said, the Lynx impressively clawed their way back from an abysmal 0-6 season start to return to the playoffs after missing last year for the first time since 2010.
Players to watch: Alyssa Thomas, remember the name. The forward is firmly in the MVP conversation after dishing out the most assists and rebounds in the league, setting a WNBA record for most double-doubles in a single season, and leading the W in triple-doubles. What, like it’s hard?
- Meanwhile, the Lynx are fueled by Napheesa Collier. In her first full season back since giving birth to her daughter, she boasts the fourth-highest points per game average.
Keys to success: The Sun will rely heavily on “The Engine” Thomas, but the rest of Connecticut’s roster will need to provide crucial support. Watch for Thomas’ partner-in-crime (and soon to be matrimony), veteran DeWanna Bonner, and the Sun bench to keep up the pace.
- As for the Lynx, the road to the semis will be an uphill climb, but if they can limit Thomas and win the turnover battle, they have a chance to play spoiler.
🃏 No. 1 Las Vegas Aces vs. ☁️ No. 8 Chicago Sky — Tonight at 10 p.m. ET
SOURCE: THE ATHLETIC/X
The matchup: The reigning WNBA champion Aces are hellbent on a repeat title. Vegas posted just six losses during the regular season — none of which were to the Sky.
- In fact, Vegas smoked Chicago this year amid serious off-court chaos for the Sky, which included head coach James Wade abruptly leaving the team in July. The fact that the Sky made the playoffs at all is nothing short of impressive.
Players to watch: It’s hard to choose just one on the Aces’ superteam squad, but if we must, it’s reigning league MVP A’ja Wilson. The offensive and defensive giant finished second in the W in rebounds this year and posted a record-tying 53-point game back in August. She can’t stop and she won’t stop.
- For the Sky, Kahleah Copper provides much-needed stability for the tumultuous team. The 2021 Finals MVP posted 10 straight double-digit performances and signed a two-year contract extension to close out the season.
Keys to success: They are certainly powerful, but the Aces are not infallible — they hit a bit of a summer slump before finding their groove again in September. But they have a not-so-secret playoff weapon in their arsenal: 2022 Finals MVP Chelsea Gray. If Las Vegas plays with the same joy and confidence as last year’s run, expect a return to the championship series.
- And when it comes to ChiTown, despite being the lowest-seed in the postseason, the Sky are peaking at the right time, heading into this series with three consecutive wins. If they can manage to disrupt Wilson…well, crazier things have happened.
🗽 No. 2 NY Liberty vs. 🪄 No. 7 Washington Mystics — Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET
The matchup: Don’t let the seeding fool you — Libs vs. ’Stics could just be the most competitive series in the first round of the playoffs. Washington has low-key been NY’s kryptonite, handing the superteam their season-opening and season-closing losses.
- That said, their head-to-head record this year is 2-2, as the Liberty found their groove by midseason and the Mystics pushed through an enormous injury slog. Expect plenty of fireworks in this one.
Players to watch: Aforementioned MVP-candidate Breanna Stewart turned the Barclays Center into her playground this year, breaking numerous franchise and league records in her first season in the Big Apple. Plus, there’s Stewie’s lieutenant, Sabrina Ionescu, who’s leading the league in three-pointers.
- Washington legend and difference-maker Elena Delle Donne (EDD) is back on the court after returning from injury, while Ariel Atkins is also back to strengthen the offensive prowess of this already-solid defensive team.
Keys to success: Expectations have never been higher for the Libs, who struggled to find cohesion at the beginning of the season with so many superstars on the roster. But now, they’ve found the right balance, especially with role players like Betnijah Laney stepping up. Maintain that flow and sky’s the limit for this squad.
- Meanwhile, the Mystics’ health will likely determine their fate, especially as EDD and Atkins work back to full-game form. But Washington’s played some of their best basketball against NY this season — and sometimes half the battle is knowing you can win.
🏀 No. 4 Dallas Wings vs. 😴 No. 5 Atlanta Dream — Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET
SOURCE: NBA LATAM/X
The matchup: Oh, the Wings — always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Despite qualifying for the playoffs five times in the last eight seasons, Dallas has never made it out of the first round — but with their star core intact, this could be the year that changes.
- The Dream on the other hand are making their first postseason appearance since 2018 and are surely ecstatic to be back in the ring, even with the odds stacked against them after going 0-3 against the Wings this regular season.
Players to watch: Unlike the 2022 playoffs, Arike Ogunbowale (pronounced ah-REE-kay oh-GOON-boh-WAH-lay) is in full health and on fire, averaging 21 points per game. This is the young star’s first real chance at a postseason run and we know she turns it all the way up in the big moments.
- But the Dream boast 2022 Rookie of the Year Rhyne Howard, who had a stellar sophomore season highlighted by finishing as a top-five three-point shooter in the league.
Keys to success: The Wings are a top-three offense, trailing only the two superteams. Their power in the paint — driven by Most Improved Player of the Year candidate Satou Sabally — could send them to the semis, and possibly further.
- However, Atlanta’s defense is not to be underestimated, especially considering they’re second in the league in blocks. This is going to be good.
📺 How to tune in
SOURCE: ESPN STATS & INFO/X
The fun begins tonight with the Sun taking on the Lynx at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in the U.S. and TSN4 in Canada, followed by Aces vs. Sky at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN in the U.S. and Sportsnet 360 in Canada.
- Check out the rest of the postseason schedule, mark your calendar, pop that popcorn, and enjoy.