WNBA playoffs betting odds, picks: Who should you take in the first round?

(Jesse Louie/Just Women's Sports)

The WNBA playoffs get underway tonight, which means it’s a great time to sit on your couch and watch basketball for four straight hours.

It’s also a great time to place some bets on the games. High-stakes hoops are always fun to watch — with something on the line, it’s only that much more exciting.

If you’re thinking about getting started on sports betting with one of the first-round games tonight, look no further. We’ve taken a look at the numbers to get you set for what to expect.

We’ll refresh you on some of the basics in our breakdown of the matchups below, but for more details on how basketball betting works in general, you can check out our primer.

No. 7 Dallas Wings at No. 6 Chicago Sky (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Remember when the Sky signed Candace Parker and were thrown into the championship contender discussion?

Well, those hopes aren’t dashed, but finishing .500 and getting the exact same No. 6 seed as they did last season probably weren’t part of Chicago’s plans.

On the other side, Vickie Johnson, in her first year as head coach, managed to navigate her young Wings team through several ups and downs and into the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

In terms of the betting lines for this game, sportsbooks like the Sky. PointsBet has the spread set at Chicago -5, meaning that you can bet on the Sky to win by at least six or you can bet on the Wings to come within four (including winning).

So, which side should you take? Dallas won two of the three matchups with Chicago during the regular season, including one in which the Wings’ lead swelled to over 30 in the first half before a late Sky run.

But both teams have faltered since then. The Wings entered the break with a net rating (margin per 100 possessions) of 1.8, which was in the top half of the league. Since returning, that number has fallen to -5.9.

Chicago is in a similar boat. The Sky’s net rating dropped from 3.1 pre-break to -1.3 afterwards, and they have only covered the betting spread in three of their 12 games since the Olympics.

With neither team entering the playoffs on a high note, momentum should be a wash, so talent and experience could be what wins the day. The entire Dallas Wings roster has combined to play 164 career playoff minutes. The Sky have four players who have individually played significantly more than that, including Candace Parker, who has logged ten times that many playoff minutes.

The Dallas franchise is headed in the right direction, but this game is about the Sky exorcising their playoff demons from the last two seasons. Roll with Chicago -5.

PointsBet has the over/under for this matchup at 167, so you can bet on whether the teams will combine for more or fewer than 167 points. Each of the first two matchups between Dallas and Chicago flew by this number — 172 and 191, respectively — but the third fell short at just 156.

Historically, playoff games have tended to be a little slower than regular season ones, but shot-making has also slightly improved in the playoffs. And teams with at least three days of rest have taken advantage of those fresh legs and pushed the pace.

I expect the Sky to get back to their identity as an up-tempo scoring machine while a young Dallas squad tries to match their pace, so I’m taking the over in this one.

No. 8 New York Liberty at No. 5 Phoenix Mercury (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Somehow, somehow, the New York Liberty are playing playoff basketball tonight.

Never mind that they spent Sunday afternoon hanging out in their living rooms with the rest of us, rooting for two different games to go their way. Never mind that they have the lowest net rating of any playoff team in WNBA history. Never mind that they won two games a season ago.

They’re here.

Tonight, the new kids on the block bring their unique brand of swag to the desert to take on a Mercury team that’s almost paradoxically boring. Phoenix has played in this round in each of the six seasons of the new WNBA playoff format, including four times as the No. 5 seed.

The opener Thursday night isn’t the only game with a massive disparity in playoff experience. While Liberty players collectively have played 829 playoff minutes, just a few more than Wings players, only 17 of those have come from someone other than Sami Whitcomb or Natasha Howard.

And that number dwarfs in comparison to the playoff court time Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi have seen.

The other problem New York may face is keeping Griner out of the paint. The Liberty are perimeter-oriented by design — it’s how their five-out system set the WNBA record for 3-point rate this year.

But on defense, that means their thin front line can run into trouble on the interior at times. New York allowed the second-most shots in the restricted arc during the season and the most since the break.

Combine that with their league-worst turnover rate and the lowest rebounding rate among playoff teams and you have a recipe for an early exit. I’ll take Phoenix -9.5.

As far as the over/under of 165, it starts to get tough to predict. Among all of those obstacles the Liberty face, they should ride what got them here — the 3 ball. They have shooters all over the place, and they are capable of erupting at any moment.

If the Liberty squad that started the season 5-1 on better than 40 percent shooting from deep shows up, this game will easily pass the 170-point mark. But there’s also a version of this Liberty team that shoots 4-for-25 from beyond the arc, like they did in June against Chicago, or 7-for-25, like they did just nine days ago.

It’s because of that variance that I’d probably stay away from betting this total, but if I had to lean one way I’d go with the over due to Phoenix’s league-leading offense since the break and New York’s difficulties matching up on defense.

Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats and Bet Her. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.