With identical records and two games to play, Dallas, a team with two superstars including the league’s leading scorer, Liz Cambage, will host Las Vegas, a first-year franchise with three of the most promising young talents in the league. A win for Dallas will end a miserable drought and earn the team a chance at redemption. A loss makes things more complicated.
How’d the teams get here?
The Wings have had an ugly month that turned disastrous on Sunday. Their head coach, Fred Williams, had an altercation with the team’s CEO outside the locker room that resulted in the coach’s firing hours later. That nightmare came at the hands of the Wings eighth consecutive loss to the Washington Mystics, and a Tuesday night loss to the Connecticut Sun made nine in a row since July 19.
It’s been a true collapse for a franchise with high expectations. The buzz around the Wings began with the long-awaited return of 6’8 big Cambage, a low-post dominating rim-protector with range. Her pairing with one of the best passers in the game, Skylar Diggins-Smith, should’ve made this team a playoff shoo-in. But the team’s supporting cast hasn’t been there, and especially sunk when both stars missed two games each to injury.
The Aces, meanwhile, have had their own controversy. On Aug. 3, the team forfeited a road game against the Washington Mystics amidst a playoff chase. The team was stuck in more than 25 hours worth of travel woes in its cross-country journey, suffering through delays, cancellations and layovers until finally arriving in D.C. approximately four hours before game tipoff. The team hadn’t slept in a bed, and for health reasons, opted to forfeit.
The team, which is led by 26-year-old Kayla McBride and first- and second-year No. 1 picks A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum, wasn’t supposed to be in playoff position this quickly. But already, they’re close.
The Aces made a larger stand for better treatment of its players, but that forfrited game could come back to bite them in its quest for a playoff bid.
How can the Wings qualify for a playoff spot?
It’s really simple for Dallas, as it has been all along through their nine-game losing streak. If the team beats Las Vegas on Friday night, they’re in. If they lose, they’ll need to beat the Storm on Sunday AND need the Aces to lose to the Dream on that same day.
The Wings own the tiebreaker over the Aces should the teams tie, having beaten them in both matchups prior to Friday night.
How can the Aces qualify for a playoff spot?
Vegas can clinch the No. 8 spot if they beat the Wings on Friday and the Atlanta Dream on Sunday OR if they beat the Wings on Friday and Dallas loses to the Storm. Keep in mind Seattle, which has already clinched a top-2 seed, could rest its stars in that one.
See, that forfeited game means a lot.
It’s the last spot in the playoffs. Does it really matter?
Yes! Unlike in the NBA, No. 8 seeds can do damage in the WNBA’s postseason thanks to the league’s new format.
The first two rounds of the WNBA playoffs are win-or-go-home, pitting the bottom six seeds against each other. The No. 5 and No. 8 seeds play a single-elimination game, as do the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds in Round 1. Then, the teams are re-seeded to play against the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in a single-elimination matchup before the best-of-five Semifinals and Finals.
All it takes is two wins to earn a chance to compete for a spot in the Finals.
Anything can happen.
What does the rest of the playoff standings look like?
Each team in the playoff hunt has two games to play, and the middle is a huge jumble. Little is set in stone just yet.
- The Storm have clinched a top-2 seed and won’t have to play in any single-elimination games. Should the team win one of its remaining two games, it’ll clinch the top spot.
- The Atlanta Dream are currently the No. 2 seed, and would have to win out while Seattle loses out to steal the top seed. Still, the team isn’t a lock for the top-2.
- The Mystics are currently the No. 3 seed. Should the Mystics win both of their remaining games and Atlanta lose its final two, Washington would snag the 2-seed.
- The No. 4-No. 7 seed range is a whole mess. Two games separate the top from bottom. Those teams include the Sun, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx.
Here’s what the standings look like on the morning of Aug. 17:
With five days until the playoffs begin, somehow the madness has already begun.