Due to the upcoming FIBA Women’s World Cup, the WNBA season has been compressed this year, so the playoffs are already into the semifinal round. For the first time since the new playoff format was introduced in 2016, there will definitely be an Eastern Conference team in the Finals, as the Atlanta Dream and Washington Mystics are facing off on one side of the bracket.
The teams that have dominated the WNBA Finals the past two years each taking home a trophy, the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks, are both out. In a strange twist of fate, the teams met in the first round of the playoffs, with the Sparks coming away with the win.
That game marked the final professional game of Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen’s extraordinary career. Earlier this year, Whalen was named the women’s basketball head coach at her alma mater, University of Minnesota, and is retiring from playing to give that her full attention.
In the other first round game, the Phoenix Mercury defeated the Dallas Wings. In the second round, the Mercury defeated the Connecticut Sun and the Mystics crushed the Sparks. Awaiting the Mercury and the Mystics in the semi-finals were the two teams with the best records in regular season play, the Seattle Storm and the Atlanta Dream.
The semifinal round of playoffs resembles the conference finals of old, with the Storm, two-time WNBA Champions, battling the Mercury, three-time WNBA Champions, and the Dream taking on the Mystics. In game one, the scores were close with the Storm and the Mystics each winning. The Mystics, led by former league MVP Elena Delle Donne, are looking for a first-ever Finals berth.
Several postseason honors have been announced. Seattle has been highly recognized, with veteran Sue Bird, a Long Island native, receiving the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, Natasha Howard being named Most Improved Player and Breanna Stewart being named WNBA MVP in just her third season in the league.
Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun was named Sixth Woman of the Year. Wings center Liz Cambage, Lynx center Sylvia Fowles and Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot have won the 2018 WNBA Peak Performer Awards in scoring, rebounding and assists, respectively. Rookie honors, defensive honors and All-WNBA First and Second teams are still to be named. The Finals will begin on Sept. 6.