WNBA playoff race 2022 tracker: Wings clinch playoff spot with fifth straight win

·10-min read

There is only one week left in the WNBA regular season and not one team is locked into a postseason seed yet. Even the four games on Sunday didn't set anything into place solidly into place.

Yahoo Sports tracked the games and their impact on the playoff picture. The season ends on Sunday, Aug 14 and the playoffs tip off on Aug. 17.

WNBA TV schedule

Sky 94, Sun 91

Aces 89, Storm 81

Sparks 79, Mystics 76

Lynx 81, Dream 71

Monday game

Wings 86, Liberty 77

WNBA standings

As of Monday at 10 p.m. ET. Team (record), games back, x - clinched berth; o - eliminated

1. Chicago Sky (25-8) - x

2. Las Vegas Aces (23-10), 2 GB - x

3. Connecticut Sun (22-11), 3 GB - x

4. Seattle Storm (20-13), 5 GB - x

5. Washington Mystics (20-14), 5.5 GB - x

6. Dallas Wings (17-16), 8 GB - x

7. Atlanta Dream (14-19), 11 GB

8. Phoenix Mercury (14-19), 11 GB

9. New York Liberty (13-20), 12 GB (1 GB of playoff spot)

10. Minnesota Lynx (13-20), 12 GB (1 GB of playoff spot)

11. Los Angeles Sparks (13-20), 12 GB (1 GB of playoff spot)

12. Indiana Fever (5-29), 20.5 GB - o

Wings surge past Liberty to clinch playoff spot

Sabrina Ionescu came close, but it wasn't quite enough on Monday night in Dallas.

The Wings, despite trailing at the end of the third quarter, mounted a big 14-0 run that spanned nearly four minutes late in the quarter to take their nine-point win — which marked their fifth straight and officially clinches a playoff spot.

Ionescu dropped a game-high 32 points and seven rebounds for the Liberty, but she was the only starter to score more than five points. Only Marine Johannes joined her in double figures after she put up 19 points off the bench.

Marina Mabrey led Dallas with 31 points and four rebounds while shooting 11-of-18 from the field, and Allisha Gray added 18 points. The Wings held New York to just 13 points in the first and fourth quarters.

The two teams will run it back on Wednesday. The Liberty are just a single game back from a playoff spot, too, making that contest even more critical.

Aces gain ground over Sun, Storm with win

Las Vegas Aces' Kelsey Plum reacts after scoring during the the WNBA Commissioner's Cup basketball game against the Chicago Sky Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Las Vegas Aces' Kelsey Plum reacts after scoring during the the WNBA Commissioner's Cup basketball game against the Chicago Sky Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum hit a wide-open corner 3 with under 30 seconds left to all but officially seal the 89-81 win against the Seattle Storm at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on Sunday. The Aces are 2-1 in the season series. These two will meet a final time in Las Vegas a week from Sunday on the final day of the regular season.

The win is huge for the Aces since the Sky won earlier in the day. They’ll stay two games back of Chicago and more importantly gain ground on the Sun and Storm for the No. 2 seed.

The game was Sue Bird’s final regular-season contest in Seattle and potentially her final one in Seattle of her career, depending on how the playoff picture paints out. She finished with nine points, six assists, four rebounds and a steal.

It was also a highly anticipated third matchup between leading MVP candidates Breanna Stewart of the Storm and A’ja Wilson of the Aces.

Stewart scored at least 30 points for a second consecutive game, the second time in her career she’s strung along such games. The 2018 MVP had 35 points, 10 rebounds and two assists. She hit 4-of-5 3-point attempts and made 11-of-15 free throws. Tina Charles, the 2012 MVP, scored 19 points with nine rebounds.

Wilson was consistent from start to finish for the Aces. The 2020 MVP paced the Aces with 29 points on 13-of-24 shooting with six rebounds. Plum scored 16. Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young scored 15 each.

It was another contest between top-four teams in the ABC doubleheader. The Aces held the advantage most of the contest and kept the Storm at bay every time they came within a possession. The Storm were without head coach Noelle Quinn, who entered health and safety protocols on Saturday. Assistant Pokey Chatman, a former WNBA head coach, served in the interim.

Sparks upset Mystics to keep playoff hopes alive

The Los Angeles Sparks upset the Washington Mystics, 79-76, to keep their playoff hopes alive and at least temporarily jump the Minnesota Lynx in playoff positioning. The loss means a missed opportunity for the Mystics to move up into the No. 4 seed with the Storm's loss across the country.

Brittney Sykes led Los Angeles with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists. Katie Lou Samuelson and Nneka Ogwumike scored 15 each. The team was without Chiney Ogwumike, who was listed on the injury report for a face injury.

The Mystics won on the boards, 40-29, but were 3 of 16 from 3-point range. Natasha Cloud attempted a last-second 3-point toss and wanted a foul, but it was called off.

Cloud called it out on Twitter immediately after the game. The Sparks were 5 of 13 and snapped a six-game losing skid.

Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen each put up 20 points and six assists in the losing effort. Rookie center Shakira Austin had 16 points and was 6 of 9 from the floor. Former MVP Elena Delle Donne was back in the lineup after missing the last game for rest. She had eight points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists. Though she struggled at 2 of 12 from the floor.

The Sparks are one game back of the final playoff spot and only one game separates them from No. 7 seed Atlanta. They still have to play two against the Sun starting on Tuesday. The Mystics have the good fortune of ending the season with two games against the Indiana Fever.

Sky keep pace at the top

Give us a best-of-five series of Sky-Sun, stat.

The Sky hit a barrage of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to complete the four-game season sweep of the Connecticut Sun, 94-91, at Wintrust Arena on Sunday afternoon. Emma Meesseman hit the game-winning 3 on an assist by Candace Parker with 28 seconds left that preserved the Sky's two-game cushion at the top of the postseason standings no matter what happened with the Aces.

The Sky's 17-point lead evaporated, but they made the right shots at the end of the game to win another against a top-four contender. All five Sky starters were in double-digits, led by Courtney Vandersloot's 20 points, five assists and four steals. She hit 3-off-6 3-point attempts. Parker had an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. She and Allie Quigley had two blocks each.

The Sky will have to stay sharp in the last week to clinch the top seed, a much nicer situation than the No. 6 seed they rode to the 2021 championship. They host the Storm (1-1 season series) on Tuesday in their regular-season home finale. Chicago hits the road for the Aces (1-1) on Thursday and Mercury (2-0) on Sunday, Aug. 14 to close the season.

Six Sun players were in double digits on Sunday, led by DeWanna Bonner's 18 points, six assists and four rebounds. Her final deep 3 to tie the game and send it to overtime bounced off the rim. Reigning MVP Jonquel Jones had a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double. Head coach Curt Miller missed the game while back home in Pennsylvania for his mother's funeral.

The Sun have a favorable schedule in the final week. They’ll play a back-to-back in Los Angeles (1-0) and conclude on Sunday at home against the Lynx (2-0). The best scenario for the Sun would be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed since it would keep them on the other side of the bracket from the Sky, if Chicago clinches the top spot.

Napheesa Collier makes 2022 debut

Napheesa Collier made her 2022 debut on Sunday night when the Minnesota Lynx beat the Atlanta Dream 81-71. Collier is coming off maternity leave after giving birth to her first child, Mila, in late May.

The Olympic gold medalist and 2019 Rookie of the Year made her return to the court 10 1/2 weeks after giving birth. She moved back to Minneapolis days before the All-Star break and returned to practices the week out of the break. Collier, 25, has said repeatedly she wanted to try and make it back to play with Sylvia Fowles in the standout center's final season. Fowles announced her retirement last offseason.

Collier started the game, and finished with six points, two rebounds and one assist in 21 minutes.

The Lynx led the entire contest on Sunday, and used a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to push them to the win — their third in four games. Kayla McBride led Minnesota with 20 points and six assists, and Moriah Jefferson added 18 points.

The Lynx need help to move back into a playoff spot after another rough start this season. The team also dealt with injuries to Fowles, Damiris Dantas and Natalie Achonwa.

They have three games remaining: at Mercury, vs. Storm, at Sun. Collier has averaged 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists with the Lynx and is their building block of the future. Fowles is the last of the Lynx players who contributed to the franchise's four titles in seven years.

What's at stake this week

The top five teams are locked into playoff spots and none can drop lower than the fifth seed, per the ESPN halftime broadcast this week. The Sky are the No. 1 seed riding a nice two-game cushion after the Wings took down the Aces on Thursday night.

The top four seeds host the first two games of the best-of-three first-round series beginning Aug. 17. The Board of Governors approved a new playoff format last offseason that is three rounds without any byes or single eliminations. The bracket puts the winners of the No. 1 vs. No. 8 game and No. 4 vs. No. 5 game on one side of the bracket, and the 2-7/3-6 winners on the other.

There are six teams who are battling for three spots. Those three are changing almost nightly. Friday morning the list was, in order, Wings-Liberty-Dream; on Monday morning it was Wings-Dream-Mercury.

Despite not having Diana Taurasi (right quad) or Skylar Diggins-Smith (non-COVID illness), the Mercury defeated the Liberty, 76-62, on Saturday night to move back into the final playoff spot and stay one-half game ahead of New York. Hours prior, the Wings, who had Arike Ogunbowale back, outlasted the Fever in overtime to keep a comfortable lead for the No. 6 spot.

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, center, walks out of the tunnel before a WNBA basketball game against the Minnesota Lynx, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Seattle. Bird is retiring at the end of the 2022 season. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, center, walks out of the tunnel before a WNBA basketball game against the Minnesota Lynx, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Seattle. Bird is retiring at the end of the 2022 season. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)