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Only one playoff spot remains up for grabs as the WNBA heads into the final week of the 2023 season.
The Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm and Indiana Fever have all been eliminated from contention. That leaves the Chicago Sky as the last challenger standing on the outside of the WNBA playoff picture.
For those unfamiliar with the WNBA’s postseason structure, the eight best teams qualify regardless of conference.
This is also the second year after the league reverted back to a traditional playoff structure. All eight teams compete in the opening round, and the top four seed no longer get a bye.
2023 WNBA Playoff Picture
1. Las Vegas Aces, 32-6 (clinched)
2. New York Liberty, 30-7 (clinched)
3. Connecticut Sun, 25-12 (clinched)
4. Dallas Wings, 20-17 (clinched)
5. Minnesota Lynx, 19-19 (clinched)
6. Atlanta Dream, 17-20
7. Washington Mystics, 17-20
8. Los Angeles Sparks, 16-21
9. Chicago Sky, 15-22
The schedule isn’t doing the Los Angeles Sparks any favors as they attempt to fed the Sky.
The Sparks finish up with road games against the Connecticut Sun, New York Liberty and Seattle Storm. They lost by 15 to the Sun on Aug. 27 and even suffered a double-digit defeat to the lowly Storm last Thursday.
Especially if Los Angeles winds up losing out to Chicago because of the head-to-head tiebreaker, the team will really rue that result against Seattle.
The Sky, meanwhile, play the Fever next before hosting the Minnesota Lynx and facing off with the Sun in their season finale. That’s a slightly less imposing final stretch than what’s in store for L.A., especially when considering Connecticut could be going through the motions on Sunday with ultimately little to play for in terms of playoff positioning.
Even with the one-game deficit on L.A., Chicago has to feel reasonably good about its odds of getting the eighth seed.
As it relates to the bigger picture, all roads continue to lead to the WNBA Finals matchup most fans forecast in the offseason.
The Liberty and Las Vegas Aces are far and away the two best teams in the league, though injuries could be a factor for both teams.
Aces star Candace Parker is still out of action after undergoing foot surgery in July, and her potential return date remains unclear.
It looked for some like Parker was more of a luxury signing rather than a necessity for the defending champion Aces. Her absence has laid bare how much Las Vegas needs the two-time MVP to ease the burden on A’ja Wilson in the frontcourt.
With a healthy Parker, the Aces were first in net rating (17.6), per WNBA.com, and they’re second in net rating (12.6) behind the Liberty since she went down. That dovetailed with New York finding more chemistry on the court the longer the season has gone on.
On the other side, Sabrina Ionescu’s nagging calf trouble could be the fly in the ointment for Liberty coach Sandy Brondello.
Jackie Powell (she/her) @ClassicJpow
Sandy Brondello spoke about Sabrina Ionescu, how she’s feeling and what the plan is going forward. She noted that she feels better but it’s “smart” of NYL to give her another day off since they have the 2nd seed. I also asked her to explain what goes into making those decisions. <a href=”https://t.co/JyzMTAz0km”>pic.twitter.com/JyzMTAz0km</a>
Now that she doesn’t have to generate so much of New York’s offense on her own, Ionescu has blossomed as a shooter. Her 44.9 percent clip from three-point range is third-best in the WNBA.
The Liberty can manage for now without the two-time All-Star playing at her best. The calf problem will become troublesome if it continues linger into the postseason.