Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 15: Who will step up in the postseason?

The WNBA’s unique playoff format puts the pressure on the players

How would you like it if your boss fired you for one mistake after a dominant performance all year? For two playoff teams, their summer-long grind will come to a screeching halt after just 40 minutes of basketball in the first round.

In the four year history of the current playoff system, only one lower seed has ever won the first round elimination game, when the 8-seed Phoenix Mercury upset the 5-seed Indiana Fever in 2016. The 7-seed has never beaten the 6-seed, a trend the Connecticut Sun will look to break.

Chicago Sky (6) vs. Connecticut Sun (7)

After a devastating loss in an elimination game last season, the Sky need to get back on track quickly after losing 6 of their last 8 games to end the year. A huge aspect of Chicago’s offense that was missing during the stretch of losses was giving their forwards opportunities to score inside.

This was a surprising development for a team that has the best facilitating duo of guards in the league, led by the first player ever to average 10 assists in a game (well, technically 9.95 but who’s counting).

Chicago should be more focused on the other side of the court, where their defensive rating of 102.7 is last among playoff teams. The consolation for the Sky is that when you factor in the Sun’s measly 100.1 offensive rating, it is essentially a movable force against a stoppable object.

The one aspect of Connecticut’s offense that could give the Sky fits is on the offensive glass. With Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, and Brionna Jones inside, the Sun have been the second best offensive rebounding team in the league, while Chicago clears the boards defensively at an average rate.

Like Chicago, the Sun have experienced guards, including Briann January who has a championship under her belt already. With well-known starters across the board, this game could come down to the play of the young benches for both teams.

Expect important contributions out of rookies Ruthy Hebard and Kaila Charles, with the Maryland product’s team coming out on top in a hard fought game.

Score Prediction: Sun win 89 – 84

Phoenix Mercury (5) vs. Washington Mystics (8)

As everyone expected, the Mystics went on a late-season push to steal the final playoff spot from the Dallas Wings. With so many new pieces this year and an abbreviated season, Washington’s team chemistry is finally getting to where it was last year.

The reigning Finals MVP Emma Meesseman is just happy they have gotten to this point, and she believes their camaraderie could lead to more postseason success. “We found each other right in time, the way we wanted to play in defense, offense, movement”.

Myisha Hines-Allen is now a household name, if not for her production alone but from the fact that she has been a focal point in almost every article written on this website in the past few weeks. Her continued success will be key for the Mystics.

Phoenix swept the season series between the two teams, 94-72 and 88-87, and despite not having Brittney Griner or Bria Hartley, the Mercury guard tandem is still a dominant force. Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith have the skill and experience needed to win in clutch situations, and their recent stat lines highlight their tenacity on offense.

The Cinderella story will most likely end for Washington as they cannot overcome the star-power of the Mercury, who will look to upset the Minnesota Lynx in the second round.

Score Prediction: Mercury win 92 – 82

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