The Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty have dominated the headlines and conversations since last year’s playoffs. On the court, the Aces and Liberty have had similar success, earning the top two seeds in the 2023 postseason.
Six other squads, though, are ready to challenge the superteams, starting with four intriguing first-round matchups. Just Women’s Sports has insights and predictions for each three-game series.
Defending champion Las Vegas set a WNBA regular-season record with 34 wins in 40 games. And after ending the season on a four-game winning streak, the Aces are in prime position to start the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Sky made the postseason against all odds in a season that saw the departure of their head coach and general manager, James Wade, who left for an assistant coaching position in the NBA. Chicago needed a late-season push to edge out the Los Angeles Sparks for the final playoff spot, and they got it by winning four of their last five contests.
These two teams are in completely different places, and while the Sky should be proud of their resilience in even making the playoffs, this series should be dominated by the Aces.
The teams played three times in the regular season, with the Aces taking all three matchups, 93-80, 107-95 and 94-87. In each matchup, Las Vegas had a different leading scorer, with the team’s four stars – A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum – all hitting double-digits each time. Chicago will have to find a way to limit one or two of those scorers to have a chance against the potent Las Vegas offense.
This series shows the importance of the fight for the No. 1 seed. Neither the Aces nor the Liberty wanted to play the Mystics.
Washington may be a No. 7 seed, but the team ranks much higher in terms of talent. Injuries throughout the season prevented the Mystics from ever getting on a roll, but when healthy, they boast Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Shakira Austin, Ariel Atkins and Brittney Sykes in the starting lineup.
Washington is certainly feeling good about itself after beating New York, 90-88, in the final game of the regular season. Yet while the Mystics can challenge the Liberty, New York is the better team and should win the series – though it may take three games to do so.
The Liberty also come into the playoffs on a high, despite the loss to Washington. They started the regular season with a ton of talent and ended it as a cohesive team that looks hard to stop in a playoff series.
Sabrina Ionescu has been particularly tough for the Mystics to stop, as she’s been New York’s leading scorer with 20-plus points in three of their four regular-season meetings. Washington needs to lean on a stellar defensive performance across the court, but particularly from Sykes and Cloud to defend New York’s guards. After that, it will be up to Austin and Delle Donne to slow down Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones. So a lot needs to go right for Washington. Ultimately, even healthy, it will be challenging for Washington to contend with New York’s talent across all five positions.
Playoff Mode! 🚀🫀#WNBAPlayoffs #MoreThanGame pic.twitter.com/FRVPQFlAHJ— Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) September 13, 2023
Playoff Mode! 🚀🫀#WNBAPlayoffs #MoreThanGame pic.twitter.com/FRVPQFlAHJ
The Sun and the Lynx played four times this season, with Connecticut holding a 3-1 advantage, but the series featured several close games. Two of the Sun’s wins came by 10 points and 5 points.
Led by MVP candidate Alyssa Thomas and her 15.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per contest, Connecticut has been consistent all season. Slowing down Thomas is the first challenge the Lynx will have to tackle. She runs the court for the Sun, and no squad has had an answer for that. Meanwhile, DeWanna Bonner is having the best season of her career, averaging 17.4 points per game. Her length also provides a challenge for Minnesota’s defense.
Meanwhile, the Lynx are peaking at the right time. They started the season 0-6 but have turned their season around. Napheesa Collier has been a huge part of that success, averaging 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. She was huge in the most recent matchup, finishing with 30 points.
The Lynx have come a long way, particularly with the development of rookies Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász, and they have the ability to make this series interesting. But ultimately, the one-two punch of Thomas and Bonner is too big of a challenge to overcome, and the Sun should take this series.
Dallas and Atlanta come into the playoffs as two similar squads — not in the way they play, but in their ability to beat anyone on a given night. Both these teams are bursting with talent, and when things go right, they go really, really right.
Yet while the Wings continue to mesh, the Dream struggled down the stretch. Still, if Atlanta puts everything together, it can compete with Dallas, though the Dream are 0-3 in the regular-season series.
To have a chance against the Wings in the playoffs, Rhyne Howard, Cheyenne Parker and Allisha Gray will all need to have big games, and Atlanta will likely need a lift from someone unexpected as well.
Dallas will lean on its big three – Satou Sabally, Arike Ogunbowale and Natasha Howard – to do most of the scoring. But the team’s inside presence is where the Wings can separate themselves. Both Teaira McCowan (6-7) and Kalani Brown (6-7) can do damage on both ends, and alongside the length of Awak Kuier (6-6), they make it difficult for opponents to attack the rim.
The magical season continues for our unicorn 🦄Satou Sabally has been named the @AP Most Improved Player of the Year. pic.twitter.com/BMNKQt9mKk— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) September 12, 2023
The magical season continues for our unicorn 🦄Satou Sabally has been named the @AP Most Improved Player of the Year. pic.twitter.com/BMNKQt9mKk