WNBA playoff field set, LA-Minnesota meet in first round
By Doug Feinberg
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA playoffs are set after a wild, unpredictable regular season came to an end Sunday.
As expected, Los Angeles and Minnesota will meet in the postseason for a third straight year. Unexpectedly, it’s in the first round.
The two-time WNBA finalists finished a surprising sixth and seventh in the regular season and will face off in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
“Minnesota is a good team. You can throw records out the window right now,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “They have two of the elite offensive players in the league, one inside and one outside, they have veteran savviness, tough minded championship pedigree and we have played them enough, over 20 times in three years, so we know each other pretty well.”
Phoenix will host Dallas, which earned the final playoff spot Friday, in the other first-round elimination game.
“I mean, you obviously want to finish as high up as you can. There was a point there when we thought we were going to be in that top two, top four, but you have to win regardless. I think we’re playing well,” Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi said. “I think we found our groove a little bit on the things that we want to do. Getting a home game, but we still have to go out there and play hard and play really well to win.”
Seattle and Atlanta earned byes to the semifinals by finishing first and second. The Dream clinched the No. 2 spot on the final day of the regular season. Washington and Connecticut earned first-round byes.
“We are thrilled. There is a whole lot of parity in the league,” WNBA President Lisa Borders told the AP on Sunday night. “Clearly anyone can beat anyone on any given day. We are thrilled with the unpredictability.”
Here are a few things to watch for in the opening round of the playoffs:
ONE LAST RIDE: Minnesota Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen announced she would retire after the season ended. She’s won four titles with the Lynx and hopes to have one more shot at a championship.
The Lynx would have to beat Los Angeles and either Washington or Connecticut to get a chance to play at home again.
“It was Lindsay Whalen’s last time at Target Center as a competitor in the WNBA during the regular season. I think we would all like to give her another chance to come back here but we’ll just take it one day at a time,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said.
NEW LIFE: Dallas backed its way into the postseason, losing nine straight games before beating Las Vegas to reach the playoffs Friday.
“We’re hungry and thirsty out there, and we finally got what we needed,” Dallas center Liz Cambage said after the team beat Las Vegas to clinch a playoff spot. “We made it hard for ourselves losing nine in a row, but we went out and left it all out there. I’m really proud of my team.”
Dallas lost to Washington in the opening round last season.
TRAVEL WOES: Whoever wins the opening round games in Los Angeles and Phoenix will have to head east to play second round games on Thursday. The WNBA doesn’t allow teams to charter, so the winners will have to fly commercial on Wednesday to Washington and Connecticut.