NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA playoffs start Wednesday with two single-elimination games in the first round.
Washington hosts Dallas, while Seattle visits Phoenix. There’s definitely star power with Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins all participating in the opening round.
It’s the second year the league has used this playoff format in which the top eight teams, regardless of conference, make the postseason. The top two teams, Minnesota and Los Angeles, get byes until the semifinals. New York and Connecticut finished third and fourth, respectively, and wait for the winners of the opening round.
Here’s a look at a few other playoff tidbits:
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: For the second straight year, Seattle is playing on the road. The eighth-seeded Storm also opened the playoffs last year at Atlanta and lost that game. It’s been one long road trip for the Storm since the team hosted the All-Star Game in late July. They’ve played 10 of their final 14 contests on the road and have traveled nearly 23,000 miles during that stretch. While Phoenix is hosting the game, the Mercury won’t be able to play on their homecourt because of a Marvel Live concert in the building. The game will be played at Arizona State.
TOP OF THE HEAP: Taurasi and Bird both moved into first place on WNBA career lists this season. Taurasi took over the top spot in points scored and Bird in assists. The two starred together at UConn before joining the WNBA and have also played overseas together in Russia and on the USA Basketball team, earning four Olympic gold medals. Taurasi said in August that it was special playing with Bird at the All-Star Game this year because she didn’t know how many more times they’d both be on the court together.
PLAYOFF NEWCOMERS: Neither Dallas nor Washington was in the postseason last year, so the single-elimination format is new to them. Most of the players and coaches weren’t big fans of having their season come down to one game, but understood the rationale behind it.
“Ideally, a best-of-three would be what a coach would want, as so much can happen in one game,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said.
GETTING HEALTHY: For the first time in nearly a month, the Mystics have most of their team healthy. Tayler Hill is the only player definitely out for the playoff game Wednesday after she tore a knee ligament in July. Delle Donne missed eight games while recovering from a sprained right ankle and injured left thumb. With so many injuries, it was difficult for the Mystics to establish any kind of cohesiveness.
“Injuries more than anything else kept us from developing a rhythm on offense,” Thibault said last month. “When you have one person out you play a certain way and then when they come back someone else would go down.”
DON’T COUNT THEM OUT: The Dallas Wings won both their games in Washington this season, rallying from deficits in the fourth quarter both times. The Wings have mastered the art of getting to the free throw line, averaging a league-best 26.6 attempts per game. Points can be hard to come by in the playoffs and getting free ones at the line definitely helps.
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