That time of year has rolled around yet again. The WNBA is set to tip off another playoff bracket, and this year we have some new faces competing against wily veterans for the ultimate prize in the league. Atlanta, Chicago, and Indiana were all unable to get back to the postseason this year. In their place, Washington, Dallas, and Connecticut will try to take down the top dogs in Minnesota and Los Angeles.
#5 Phoenix Mercury vs #8 Seattle Storm
Two of the greatest players in WNBA history are going to head-to-head one more time. Diana Taurasi, who became the leading scorer in WNBA history, and Sue Bird, the new leader in all-time assists, will face off in the first round. The other big matchup to watch is Brittney Griner going against Breanna Stewart.
Griner is coming off of her best season in terms of scoring. Even though she was out a handful of games due to injury, she ended with an impressive line of 21.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.5 bpg, and 1.9 apg on 57.7% shooting from the floor. She played her way into MVP consideration and she has been the main piece of Phoenix’s success.
Breanna Stewart, in just her second season, posted averages of 19.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. She shot 47.5% from the floor and 37.1% from three. While the guard play stemming from Sue Bird will be important, this team will go as far as Stewart can take them. She will have to overcome Griner if the Storm want to win this opening matchup.
Prediction: The Mercury win behind a huge double-double from Griner and a twenty-point outburst from Taurasi.
#6 Washington Mystics vs #7 Dallas Wings
Elena Delle Donne is back in the playoffs again, but with a team other than Chicago for the first time. Washington made the big move so that they could gear up for this exact time of the year. Their guard heavy rotation consisting of Natasha Cloud, Tayler Hill, Ivory Latta, and Kristi Tolliver should be able to give any team a lot of fits. Throw in two of the most dynamic forwards in Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman, and this team is officially equipped to make a deep run.
On the other side, Skylar Diggins-Smith is finally making her long-awaited debut in the postseason. After her ACL injury two seasons ago, she has come back better than ever. She put up 18 points and almost 6 assists per game while leading her team to victory in many close games. With the departure of their former starting guard, Odyssey Sims, Diggins-Smith had to take on an even bigger role with the team. Luckily, rookies Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis have stepped up to the plate, and Glory Johnson has also been right behind them for support.
While Delle Donne will get her buckets, this game is going to come down to the guard play from both teams. The Mystics are going to have to shut down Diggins-Smith if they want to come away with a win. The Wings, on the other hand, will have to out-perform the deep backcourt of Washington to counteract Delle Donne’s performance.
Prediction: The Mystics are too much for the Wings and take the win behind a 30-point game from Elena Delle Donne.