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2021 WNBA Playoffs: Picks, predictions for full slate and this year’s champion

The 2021 WNBA playoffs are set to begin on Thursday night with two first round matchups beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

Jasmine Thomas #5, DeWanna Bonner #24, Jonquel Jones #35, Natisha Hiedeman #2 and Brionna Jones #42 of the Connecticut Sun huddle on the court before their game against the Las Vegas Aces at Michelob ULTRA Arena on May 23, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Sun defeated the Aces 72-65. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After an exciting regular season in the WNBA, the eight-team playoff field is set with the first round scheduled for Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET. In the first game, the No. 6 seed Chicago Sky will play the No. 7 seed Dallas Wings on ESPN2. Then at 10 p.m. ET, the No. 8 seed New York Liberty will travel out west to play the No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury.

From there, the two teams who win on Thursday night will move on to face either the No. 3 seed Minnesota Lynx or No. 4 seed Seattle Storm in the second round, which is also single-elimination. After that, the semifinals will take place with the No. 1 seed Connecticut Sun and No. 2 Las Vegas Aces, who both have double byes. The semifinals and finals are each best-of-five.

Below we’ll give our predictions on how the WNBA playoffs might play out and who will be playing for the WNBA title.

First Round

No. 6 Chicago Sky over No. 7 Dallas Wings

Out of the two first round games, this might be the hardest game to pick as the Wings have played the Sky tough this season. Dallas has been one of the surprise stories in the W, led by first-time All-Star Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale will likely put on a show on Thursday, along with Marina Mabrey, Allisha Gray, and Satou Sabally.

However, I think the vet experience will play a major role in this one-game situation and the Sky will prevail. Chicago has not lived up to preseason expectations this year, but with the talent they have from Candace Parker, Diamond DeShields, Kahleah Copper, Allie Quigley, and Courtney Vandersloot, they should prevail.

No. 5 Phoenix Mercury over No. 8 New York Liberty

I think this is game could be a blowout as the Mercury were one of the best teams after the Olympic break. Phoenix is led by the trio of Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner, and Diana Taurasi. Diggins-Smith and Griner have been the catalysts behind the Mercury’s success in the second half and will play a huge role in their playoff run.

The Mercury took the season series 2-1 against the Liberty, which included back-to-back double-digit blowout losses in August. New York will give a good fight as they have a star player in Betnijah Laney. She was named to the All-Star team and averaged 16.8 points and a career-high 5.2 assists per game this season. The key for New York will be defense as they are allowing 86.4 points per game in their last 10 contests.

Second Round

No. 3 Minnesota Lynx over No. 6 Chicago Sky

If things go as planned in the first round, then we get two excellent second round matches, starting with the Lynx and Sky. Minnesota had a nice turnaround and will be a force to be reckoned with in a one-game scenario.

The Lynx finished the regular season winning 9 out of their last 10 games, which included a six-point road win over the Sky. Both teams won a game on the opposing teams floor, which could be a precursor of what to come. But I think Minnesota is a team to watch out for led by Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier, Kayla McBride, and last year’s rookie of the year Crystal Dangerfield. The Lynx are one of the better defensive teams with a defensive rating of 98, but the key for them is limit their own turnovers, which has been a problem.

No. 4 Seattle Storm over No. 5 Phoenix Mercury

We could see a potential upset in the making if the Storm and Mercury link up. We do not know the status of Breanna Stewart, who missed the last two regular season games with an injury. If Stewie is able to play in the playoffs, she will give the Storm a major boost in their quest to repeat. But if she doesn’t play or is limited in anyway, then Phoenix could end up stealing this game.

However, it’s hard to bet against the Storm, especially with the way Jewell Lloyd has been playing recently. In Seattle’s last 10 games, Lloyd is averaging 17.9 points per game. In the Storm’s regular season finale against the Mercury, Lloyd had a game-high 37 points as the Storm won 94-85. I’m going to take the Storm to pull out a close win in front of the home crowd.

Semifinals

No. 1 Connecticut Sun over No. 4 Seattle Storm in 4 games

The league’s best team in the Sun will finally get their Finals run started against the Storm in the semifinals. Unlike the first two rounds, this will be a best of five matchup between these two teams, who played each other in the Commissioner’s Cup.

Connecticut will have home court advantage and be favored to win this series. The Sun are led by MVP candidate Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner, and Brionna Jones. Jonquel Jones has been the best player this season, averaging 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. It’s only the second time in her career that she's averaged a double-double.

I expect the Sun to win this series in four games as they are tremendous on both sides of the ball. When you are only giving up 69.9 points per game and have a defensive rating of 93.7, you will be in a great position to succeed.

No. 2 Las Vegas Aces over No. 3 Minnesota Lynx in 5 games

The Aces will be looking to go back to the finals for the second consecutive season and will get to face the Lynx in the semis. In the regular season, the Lynx went 2-1 against the Aces, with wins coming at home and on the road. However, in their last meeting, Aces blew out the Lynx 102-81, thanks to 29 points and 10 rebounds from Jackie Young.

With Aerial Powers back in the fold for the Lynx, this will be a fun series to watch and will go 5 games. But the Aces prevail to meet up with the Sun in the WNBA Finals.

WNBA Finals

No. 1 Connecticut Sun over No. 2 Las Vegas Aces in 5 games

The best two teams will meet up in what should be an exciting finals matchup for the WNBA. The Sun swept the season series (3-0) against the Aces in the regular season and has the talent to matchup with them across the board. I think it’s going to be fun to watch last year’s MVP in A’ja Wilson and this year’s MVP Jonquel Jones go at it inside the paint and really leave their impact on the game.

It will also be interesting to see how Liz Cambage performs, who just recently returned from her battle with COVID. If Cambage can be a force on both offense and defense, then Vegas will be a tough out for the Sun. However, I think it’s the Sun’s year to win it all. Head coach Curt Miller has done an excellent job all season and it will culminate with a Game 5 win.