The 2023 WNBA playoffs kicked off last week and there were very few early surprises. The 2022 Champion Las Vegas Aces looked as strong as ever while taking down the Chicago Sky. The top seed Aces confidently handled the Sky in the first matchup 87-59, while relying heavily on their defense. Their tenacious defense led to 29 points in transition, 19 of which came in the first half, which ties their second most this season. The Aces allowed their fewest points all season only letting up 59 and held the Sky to just 21% shooting from the field on 9-of-43. The Aces were also firing on all cylinders offensively with five players in double digits, with point guard Chelsea Gray getting 20. The Aces now have 7 wins by at least 25 points between the regular season and playoffs, only one behind the 8 of the 2019 Washington Mystics. Despite Candace Parker being injured, the bench was able to put up enough points to give the Aces a comfortable lead throughout the game. The lead enabled the Aces to give A’ja Wilson some well deserved rest, as the star only played 28 minutes. The Aces then became the first team to clinch a playoff berth when they defeated the Sky again just two days later, 92-70. Game two was all a revitalized Wilson who took over with 38 points for a career playoff high and franchise high, breaking the record of 34 set by coach Becky Hammon. In addition to her 38, Wilson had 16 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals and an assist. The Aces will get a week to reset before facing the winner of the Dallas Wings vs. Atlanta Dream series.
Meanwhile, No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun easily routed the No. 6 Minnesota Lynx 90-60 in game one. The Sun had five players in double digits, assisted by meaningful contributions from role players and the bench. The passing was spectacular, 28 of 33 field goals were assisted, with help from 16 3-pointers, a franchise record for threes in a playoff game, and tying for second best in a playoff game in WNBA history. However, it was the Sun’s defense that truly shined. The Sun applied heavy pressure throughout the game causing 19 turnovers which gave the Sun 30 points. Their key players Alyssa Thomas and Dewanna Bonner shined and proved why the Sun deserve to be in the playoffs. Thomas had 15 points, 10 assists, 5 steals, and 3 rebounds, while Bonner contributed 17 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists. However, the Lynx recovered in game two, forcing a deciding game three. The Lynx bounced back 82-75, with Kayla McBride carrying with 28 points and combining with Napheesa Collier for 50 points. The Sun will head to Minneapolis on Wednesday, September 20 for the deciding game three.
The discussion of the No.2 New York Liberty vs. No.7 Washington Mystics begins with the recognition that the Mystics are not a No.7 seed. Washington is a competitive team that has been held back by injuries throughout the season. That being said the Mystics came out strong on Friday, winning the first quarter 29-23. However, the Liberty came back strong in the second period scoring 23 to the Mystics’ 13, taking a 46-42 lead going into the half. The Liberty did not live up to their reputation as the top 3 point shooting team in the WNBA in the first half shooting just 4-of-16. But their 3-point shooting in the second half proved to be the difference maker as Sabrina Ionescu began to show why she is the best in the league at what she does. The star came out of half on fire and didn’t let up- scoring 20 points including six deep threes. Ionescu’s second half performance earned her the franchise record for most threes in a playoff game. The Mystics rallied behind Myisha Hines-Allen who had an impressive 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, but it simply wasn’t enough. The Mystics’ couldn’t match the second half three point shooting effort from the Liberty and shot a mere 5-of-22 from deep. The winner of the series will play the winner of the Connecticut Sun vs. Minnesota Lynx matchup.
The final series is between the No. 5 Atlanta Dream and No. 4 Dallas Wings. The Wings came back from a 20 point deficit to win 94-82. The German star Satou Sabally was the top scorer for the Wings with 32 points on 55% from the field. She also tallied 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Arike Ogunbowale provided the necessary assistance with 24 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals, and finally holding down the paint was Teaira McCowan with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Overall, Sabally, Ogunbowale, and McCowan combined for 73 points and propelled the Wings’ comeback. For Atlanta, Rhyne Howard executed well with 36 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists, and shooting 53% from the field. The Dream have a solid chance at tying the series at one, but they need Cheyenne Parker to step up. Game two will be an important tell-all for the victorious team, and their chances going forward. The winner will have to face a formidable opponent in the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces.