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WNBA playoff bracket: How the first round teams and byes shape up

The WNBA playoffs will officially begin on Thursday night with two first-round games.

A general shot of the Women’s National Basketball Association Champions trophy before Game Three of the 2019 WNBA Finals between the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun on October 6, 2019 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Photo by Khoi Ton/NBAE via Getty Images

After a fun and exciting 2021 WNBA regular season, eight playoffs teams will begin their quest towards a WNBA title Thursday night. The postseason will start with two first-round games beginning at 8 p.m. ET between the Dallas Wings and Chicago Sky. Then to end the night, the Phoenix Mercury will host the New York Liberty, with tipoff at 10 p.m.

Outside of the two first round games, there will be four teams who will get a chance to rest for a round or two before taking the floor. The Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm will have a first-round bye, while the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun will have double byes.

Below we’re going to breakdown the first round matchup between the Wings and Sky and Mercury and Liberty, along with the four teams who have byes in the playoffs.

First round matchups

#7 Dallas Wings vs. #6 Chicago Sky
Date: Thu, Sep 18
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV channel: ESPN2

Between the two first round matchups, this is the most interesting as the Wings could pull the upset over the Sky. The Wings took the season series from the Sky, winning 2 out of 3 games. In their final meeting on August 17, Dallas defeated Chicago 80-76, thanks to a 20-point performance from Allisha Gray. As for the Sky, Allie Quigley scored a game-high 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and 7-of-9 shooting from three-point range.

This game will ultimately come down to which Sky will show up on Thursday? The Sky, who lost 2 out of 3 against Wings. Or the Sky, who just defeated the Seattle Storm three times in two weeks back in August? Hopefully for Chicago, it is the latter.

#8 New York Liberty vs. #5 Phoenix Mercury
Date: Thu, Sep 18
Time: 10 p.m. ET
TV channel: ESPN2

New York had to wait until Sunday evening to find out if they would get a chance in the playoffs and it paid off as the Mystics and Sparks both lost. It’s a minor miracle they made it considering they lost 11 of their last 13 games to close the season. A season-ending home win over Washington was the difference and gives them a new lease on life. Betnijah Laney led the team this season with 16.8 points per game, but just as important, the Liberty have Natasha Howard back in the mix after an MCL sprain cost her much of the summer.

They travel to face a Mercury squad that was much better on the road than at home. They finished the season with a 7-9 home record and a 12-4 road record. They’re a tough team to figure out, having won ten straight in August and early September before losing three straight to close the season. Brittney Griner led the team with 21 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

First round byes

#3 Minnesota Lynx

Minnesota claimed the third spot with a season-ending win over the Mystics. Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier each led the team with 16.3 points per game during the regular season. Fowles added an even 10.0 rebounds per game. The Lynx finished the regular season 13-3 and get one opportunity to move forward on their home court.

#4 Seattle Storm

The Storm won the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup and secured one fo the two first round playoff byes. Breanna Stewart will likely come up short in MVP balloting, but still finished with a third best in the league 20.3 points per game and fifth best in the league 9.5 boards. Seattle finished 11-5 at home and 10-6 on the road, so has a chance to do some damage after their bye.

First & second round byes

#1 Connecticut Sun

The Sun have been the best teams in the WNBA this season and look primed to make a deep postseason run. The Sun are led by MVP candidate and All-star center Jonquel Jones, who is averaging a career-high 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. However, the Sun also have another All-Star in DeWanna Bonner and a potential Most Improved Player in Brionna Jones. The Sun had one of the best records at home this season (15-1) and will be privileged to have the playoffs come through Mohegan Sun.

#2 seed Las Vegas Aces

The difference between the top two seeds was the Sun’s three-game sweep of the season series. The Aces head into the playoffs with a strong seven-man rotation. They have seven different players averaging double digit points per game, and then it falls off in a hurry from there with nobody else averaging more than 3.3 points per game. A’ja Wilson leads the Aces with team highs of 18.6 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game.