Courtney Vandersloot, who set the WNBA single-season assist record this year, leads the Chicago Sky into the playoffs. Photo from @chicagosky (Twitter)
- The WNBA playoffs open Tuesday (Sept. 15) with two first-round single-elimination games in Bradenton, Fla.
- The No. 7-seeded Connecticut Sun play the No. 6 Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. ET and the No. 8 Washington Mystics begin their title defense against the No . 5 Phoenix Mercury at 9 p.m. ET
- See odds for both games as well as our picks and betting analysis below
The WNBA made it through their regular season in the bubble, with each team playing all 22 games of their pandemic-shortened schedule.
Now it is playoff time at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
The postseason tips off Tuesday night (Sept. 15) with a pair of single-elimination first-round games. The seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun plays the No. 6 seed Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the No. 8 Washington Mystics facing the No. 5 Phoenix Mercury at 9 p.m. ET.
Of the teams in the “first four,” the Mercury are given the best WNBA Championship odds.
Here is a look at the lines for the first-round games.
WNBA Playoffs First Round Odds
|Team||Moneyline||Spread||Total at FanDuel|
|Connecticut Sun||+136||+3.5 (-110)||Over 163.5 (-110)|
|Chicago Sky||-168||-3.5 (-110)||Under 163.5 (-110)|
|Team||Moneyline||Spread||Over/Under at FanDuel|
|Washington Mystics||+210||+6.5 (-118)||Over 165.5 (-110)|
|Phoenix Mercury||-265||-6.5 (-102)||Under 165.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Sept. 15
Sun Overcame Slow Start
The balance of power in the WNBA’s regular season very much shifted to the west. The teams with the five best records all came from the Western Conference.
Chicago (12-10) and Connecticut (10-12) had the two best records in the Eastern Conference, and now square off in the opening round.
The Sun had to scramble to reach the playoffs after beginning the season with five straight losses. They are just the third team in WNBA history to start 0-5 and get to the postseason.
“But everybody’s been in Playoffs and experienced that so they know the focus, the energy, the intensity that you have to bring to be ready,” @BriannJanuary leading up to the Sun’s Playoff appearance tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/2wwUolGJSv
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 14, 2020
Connecticut’s backcourt duo of Jasmine Thomas (foot) and Briann January (hand) were hobbled by injuries down the stretch. Both will need to be healthy if the Sun is to have any chance of winning the championship.
Thomas averaged 12 points, four assists and 1.3 steals a game in the regular season. January scored five points and dished out 3.4 assists a game.
DeWanna Bonner (19.7/7.8/3.0) and Jasmine Thomas (15.5/9.0/4.8) combined to average 35.2 points, 16.8 rebounds and 7.8 steals. Jasmine Thomas’ two steals per game led the league.
Meanwhile, the Sky comes limping into the playoffs with six losses in their last eight games. They lost Azura Stevens (knee) and Diamond DeShields (personal reasons) late in the season and both are expected to miss the postseason.
Chicago does have the league’s top playmaker in Courtney Vandersloot, who topped the WNBA with a league-record ten assists per game while also posting a career-best 13.6 scoring average.
According to basketball-reference.com, her 4.1 win shares were tops in the league.
So this happened today!!! This is absolutely insane @chicagosky
@Sloot22 @wnba pic.twitter.com/rNIRl5Ue3u
— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) September 14, 2020
The teams split two regular-season meetings with Chicago winning 100-93 on Aug. 8 as a 2.5-point favorite and Connecticut notching a 77-74 upset six days later as a 5.5-point underdog.
The Sky’s Allie Quigley scored a combined 38 points in those two games and Cheyenne Parker was right behind with 37. Quigley led five Chicago who averaged in double figures in the regular season as she scored 15.4 points a game.
Jasmine Thomas had 37 points for the Sun against Chicago and Bonner added 34.
2020 NBA Championship Odds Tracker
Mystics Rally Late
The Mystics are looking to become the first franchise to repeat as WNBA champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002.
It will not be easy, though, as Washington slipped into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed with a 9-13 record.
The Mystics do not resemble the 2019 championship team, though, as four starters from last year are gone either because of player movement or injury. The missing includes Elena Delle Donne, last season’s WNBA MVP.
Delle Donne has Lyme disease and opted out of the season because of being high risk if she contracted COVID-19.
“I’m now left with two choices: I can either risk my life … or forfeit my paycheck.”
That’s the dilemma Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA’s MVP, is left with after doctors denied her request to not play during COVID because she has Lyme disease. https://t.co/HrjSYNELks
— Jamison Hill (@NotTheWhiskey) July 15, 2020
However, the Mystics deserve credit for perseverance as they lost 12 of 13 games at one point during the season. Yet they are in the postseason for the fourth year in a row and eighth time in nine years.
Forward Myisha Hines-Allen led the team in scoring (17.1 PPG) and rebounding (8.9).
Taurasi Leads Mercury Again
The Mercury will look to end the Mystics’ reign after going 13-9. One indicator that Phoenix should be able to get past the first round is that star guard Diana Taurasi is 6-0 in single-elimination games during her 17-year career.
Taurasi led a three-pronged attack during the regular season with an 18.7 scoring average. Skylar Diggins-Smith and Britney Greiner scored 17.7 a game.
You know you’re a legend when LeBron James decides to copy your style of shoes.
A Nike LeBron 7 “USA” colorway resembling Diana Taurasi’s ’10 PE is set to release in 2021. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/SJh5SBVmAG
— Nice Kicks (@nicekicks) September 8, 2020
Phoenix swept the regular-season series, winning 88-87 on Aug. 23 and 94-72 on Aug. 28. Taurasi went off for 34 points in the first game and Diggins-Smith’s 24 led the way five days later. The Mercury failed to cover as 4.5-point favorites in the first game but were the winning side as a 2.5-point favorite in the rematch.
Tianna Hawkins had a combined 32 points for the Mystics in the two games.
It is hard to bet against Taurasi, especially in a big game, but the Mystics won their last four regular-season games both straight-up and against the spread. The defending champs won’t go down without a fight.
Best Bet: Mystics +6.5 (-118)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.