WNBA playoff scenarios: Who will clinch the final spot?

(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

With the WNBA playoffs fast approaching, there’s a three-way battle for the eighth and final playoff spot between the Washington Mystics, the New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks.

Currently, FiveThirtyEight rates the Mystics’ chances of making the playoffs at 71 percent. The Sparks’ chances jumped up slightly to 11 percent following the Liberty’s loss to the Sun on Wednesday and their own win over the Dream on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Liberty’s chances dropped from 26 to 18 percent.

While the Mystics are clearly in charge of their own destiny, a loss on Friday could shake things up. Just Women’s Sports lays out the different scenarios that could result in any one of the three teams securing the final playoff spot.

Scenario 1: The Mystics defeat the Liberty

This is the scenario that seems the most likely. The Liberty are currently on an eight-game skid following a loss to the Connecticut Sun. Having won their past two games, the Mystics are holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot, sitting a half game ahead of the Sparks at 12-18.

The Mystics automatically clinch the final playoff spot with a win Friday night. Even if the Sparks win on Sunday, the Mystics beat them based on head-to-head since the Mystics went 2-1 against the Sparks this season.

If the Mystics also beat the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday, they could jump up to No. 7 and push the Dallas Wings into the eighth spot.

Scenario 2: The Mystics Lose their last two, Los Angeles wins Sunday

Los Angeles hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2011 and has only missed the playoffs four times in the league’s 25-year history. They’re still alive following a must-win victory on Thursday over the Atlanta Dream, but even if they win on Sunday they’re still on the outside looking in. They’ll be looking to the Mystics to lose their last two in order to make the playoffs.

Even if the Mystics jump the Wings, the Sparks lose in a tiebreaker with the Wings as well. Depending on how the Mystics-Liberty game goes, Sunday is a must-win game. Additionally, they have to hope Washington loses on Sunday in order to earn the eighth and final spot.

Scenario 3: The Mystics lose their last two, Los Angeles loses Sunday

The most wild of all the scenarios will become a possibility only if the Liberty can end their skid against Washington. If they win on Friday, and both the Mystics and the Sparks follow that up with a loss, the Liberty will make the playoffs.

With all three teams finishing at 12-20 in this scenario, the Liberty own the tiebreaker. In head-to-head matchups this season, the Liberty own a 3-2 record, with the Mystics 3-3 and the Sparks 2-3.

The Washington Mystics take on the New York Liberty on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.