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WNBA playoff picture, clinching scenarios: Aces clinch No. 1 seed, locking reigning champion Sky into No. 2

Yahoo Sports US logo Yahoo Sports US 8/14/2022 Cassandra Negley

The WNBA playoff picture is again coming down to the final day. All 12 teams are playing on Sunday in their regular season finales and all but two teams have a shot at a postseason berth. 

Here's what's at stake for Sunday. This post will be updated throughout the day with results and seeds. The playoffs begin on Wednesday in the new best-of-three first-round format. 

WNBA schedule for Sunday 

Sun 90, Lynx 83

Liberty 87, Dream 83

Mystics 95, Fever 83

Aces 109, Storm 100

Sky 82, Mercury 67

Wings 116, Sparks 88

WNBA standings 

Official end-of-season standings. Seed, team, record, x - clinched playoff berth, o - eliminated, bold - locked in  

No. 1 Las Vegas Aces (26-10), x

No. 2 Chicago Sky (26-10), x

No. 3 Connecticut Sun (25-10), x

No. 4 Seattle Storm (22-14), x

No. 5 Washington Mystics (21-14), x

No. 6 Dallas Wings (18-18), x

No. 7 New York Liberty (16-20), x

No. 8 Phoenix Mercury (15-21), x

No. 9 Atlanta Dream (14-22), o

No. 10 Minnesota Lynx (14-22), o

No. 11 Los Angeles Sparks (13-23), o

No. 12 Indiana Fever (5-30), o

The playoffs' first-round pairings are 1 vs. 8 and 4 vs. 5 (winners play each other in a best-of-five semifinals); 2 vs. 7 and 3 vs. 6 (winners in semifinals).  

Aces clinch No. 1 seed 

The Las Vegas Aces clinched the No. 1 seed in the 2022 WNBA playoffs with a 109-100 win against the Seattle Storm at a sold-out crowd at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. The reigning champion Chicago Sky will be the No. 2 seed.

The Storm were already locked into the No. 4 spot, but still have something to play for in the finale. There is no re-seeding in the new playoff format, so the No. 4 Storm and No. 1 Aces are now on the same side of the bracket. They could meet in the best-of-five semifinals. The Aces won the season series, 3-1.

Kiah Stokes and A’ja Wilson blocked back-to-back attempts in the final minute and Kelsey Plum drained a 3-pointer to make it 101-95. It was all downhill for the league’s best offense from there.

Aces point guard Chelsea Gray scored a career-high 33 points (10-of-15) with nine assists and seven rebounds. Jewell Loyd scored a career-high 38 points, g oing 13-of-23 overall and 8-for-14 from range, on the other side for the Storm.

Wilson (25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Kelsey Plum (23 points, 4-of-9 3pt) became the first duo in WNBA history to score 700 points each in a single season. The schedule expanded to 36 games this season and will move to 40 next year.

Jackie Young, a leading Most Improved Player candidate, missed the start of the second half while dealing with a non-COVID related illness, ESPN’s Holly Rowe reported. Young did return and had one bucket along with five rebounds, four assists and three steals in a total 25 minutes.

The Aces are without Dearica Hamby, a two-time Sixth Player of the Year who moved into the starting lineup under first-year head coach Becky Hammon. She is dealing with a bone bruise in her knee that could keep her out up to a month.

It was Sue Bird’s final regular season game and she reached 1,000 career 3-pointers. Bird and former UConn teammate Diana Taurasi (1,297) are the only players in league history to reach the mark. It was also the final regular season contest for Storm guard Briann January.

Mercury loss places them at No. 8, behind Liberty

The reigning champion Chicago Sky ended the season on a good note, defeating the Phoenix Mercury 82-67 at Footprint Center in Phoenix. The Mercury secured a spot in the playoffs earlier in the day with the Lynx loss but were playing for a better seed that would have meant a best-of-three against the Sky this week.

The Sky were already locked into the No. 2 seed after the Aces’ win. Phoenix’s loss kept them at No. 8, behind the New York Liberty. They will face the Aces in the best-of-three first round in Las Vegas. The Sky will play the Liberty in Chicago.

Chicago led 15-8 after one and 39-25 at the half. It was a 24-point margin for the Sky heading into the fourth quarter. Courtney Vandersloot was knocked down in the third quarter and appeared to be in pain. She returned to the bench and was on the stationary bike. The starters mostly sat the entire way as the Sky kept moving the margin.

Azura Stevens came off the bench to lead Chicago with 17 points. Every player scored. Jennie Simms (12), Megan Gustafson (12), Diamond DeShields (11) and Kaela Davis (11) led the Mercury offensively. 

Phoenix is without all three of their — actually, four — of their star players. Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia. Tina Charles and the Mercury agreed to a contract divorce (essentially a buyout) weeks back.

Diana Taurasi is out with a quad strain, but has remained on the bench with the team. And the team announced on Thursday that Skylar Diggins-Smith would miss the final two games of the regular season due to personal reasons. She was placed on the suspended list and is unable to return this season.

Taurasi, Griner and Diggins-Smith were honored pre-game by USA Basketball for their Olympic gold medal at Tokyo last summer. Griner’s ring was accepted by Taurasi and Diggins-Smith’s by her mother.

Sophie Cunningham tweaked her ankle, but continued play, and Kaila Davis also sustained an apparent right knee injury in the third quarter. Davis had to be helped off the court.

Liberty clinch final playoff spot

Sandy Brondello has the New York Liberty back in the playoffs in her first year as head coach. ( Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo Sports US Sandy Brondello has the New York Liberty back in the playoffs in her first year as head coach. ( Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are back in the postseason with a 87-83 win over the Atlanta Dream at home at Barclays Center on Sunday. It is the 17th time in 26 seasons the Liberty have been in the postseason and the second consecutive berth after they were away for a franchise-record three years.

Natasha Howard hit a 3-pointer from the corner to make it a four-point game with less than a minute remaining. It came on a series of beautiful passes on the perimeter that started with a tip-out by Stefanie Dolson and offensive rebound for Betnijah Laney.

Dream second-year guard Aari McDonald cut the lead to two on a drive to the basket and Erica Wheeler fouled at 24.8 seconds to put Sabrina Ionescu at the line for the first time in the game. She hit both to make it 85-81. Wheeler’s 3-pointer bounced off the rim and Howard secured the rebound and spot in the playoffs. Her two made free throws gave the final score.

Howard scored 18 points (5-of-8) with nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and a block. Stefanie Dolson had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Marine Johannes scored 18 and came close to the franchise record for 3s in a game. She was 6-of-8 behind the arc. 

By the third quarter at Barclays, there was only one playoff spot remaining to grab. The Lynx loss ensured a berth for the Phoenix Mercury and left the Liberty and Dream to determine the final one.

The Liberty have struggled with health all season and have barely played any contests with every player available. Laney, Howard and Did Richards have all missed time during Sandy Brondello's first season as head coach.

The Dream underwent a rebuild in the offseason both in the front office and the roster. Atlanta hired Tanisha Wright as head coach and traded up to take Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Howard led the Dream with 24 points and seven assists. She was 5-of-12 from 3-point range. 

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver were both at Barclays to watch the matchup.

Lynx eliminated from playoff contention

Sylvia Fowles’ 15-year career will not include the playoffs after the Minnesota Lynx were eliminated with a 90-83 loss to the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun arena in Connecticut on Sunday. The loss ensured a spot for the Mercury at either No. 7 or No. 8. It is the first time since 2010 the Lynx have missed the postseason

Fowles exited one last time to a roaring ovation and hugged every Lynx coach and player down the bench. The 6-foot-6 center was mic’d up, occasionally catching her “I love you” praises to teammates. "Mama Syl" embraced Sun players one-by-one when the clock expired.

The Lynx (14-22) made a late push for the playoffs and with two games left jumped to the No. 7 seed. But they were blown out by the Seattle Storm, which locked up the No. 4 seed, on Friday night and didn’t fare much better against the Sun (25-11). The Lynx needed a win and help to move into a spot.

Fowles, who was honored in Minnesota for her final home game, reached 4,000 career rebounds early in the contest. She is the only player in WNBA history to reach that mark and retires with the all-time rebounding record of (4007). The two-time WNBA champion and two-time Finals MVP is also the league-leader in double-doubles with her 193rd in her career finale. Fowles played 409 career games for the Chicago Sky and Lynx and leads both franchises’ rebounding record books.

She didn’t hit a field goal until the second half and finished her final game with 10-point, 12-rebound double-double. The Lynx struggled to rebound early and allowed the Sun to shoot 52.9%. The Sun came into the contest locked into the No. 3 seed.

The Lynx trailed by as many as 19 late in the third quarter and drew within six, prompting Sun head coach Curt Miller to send his starters back in at 3:43 remaining. The Lynx could never reach close enough.

WNBA playoff clinching scenarios as of Sunday morning

No. 1 seed and No. 2 seed

  • The Las Vegas Aces can clinch the top seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with a win against the Storm in the late afternoon window on ABC. They're 2-1 against Seattle. The Aces could also clinch it with losses by the No. 2 Sky and the No. 3 Sun. 

  • The Chicago Sky could clinch the top spot with a win against the Phoenix Mercury combined with an Aces loss, or with an Aces loss and Sun win. (via the WNBA) 

  • If there is a three-way tie at the top with the Sky, Sun and Aces all at 25-11, then the head-to-head results would break down to, in order per the WNBA, Sky (5-2), Aces (4-2) and Sun (1-6).

In the middle

No. 3 — Connecticut Sun | Even in a tie, the Sun have the worst record against the Sky and Aces with only one win. They will host the No. 6 Dallas Wings beginning with Game 1 on Thursday ( 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

No. 4 — Seattle Storm | Seattle locked in its position with its win over the Lynx on Friday night and will play the Mystics. The first two games are in Seattle beginning with Game 1 on Thursday (10 p.m. ET/ESPN2). 

No. 5 — Washington Mystics | If the Mystics force a Game 3, it would come back to the District. They are 1-2 against the Storm this season. 

No. 6 — Dallas Wings | The Wings could also host a pivotal Game 3 if it goes that far. They are 2-1 against the Sun. Arike Ogunbowale will miss the entire first-round series. 

Final two playoff spots (No. 7, 8)

The Mercury and Liberty control their own paths to the postseason, while the Lynx and Dream will need wins and help.

  • For the Phoenix Mercury to get in, all they have to do is win against the Sky. They've lost both to Chicago. A Lynx loss also puts them in the playoffs. 

  • The New York Liberty can clinch a playoff spot with a win against the Atlanta Dream (2-1). Or a Mercury win, or a Lynx loss. 

  • The Minnesota Lynx can move into a playoff spot with a win against the Sun and a loss by the Mercury or Liberty. 

  • The Atlanta Dream can move into a playoff spot with a win over the Liberty and a Mercury loss. 

  • If things play out to a tie between all four teams at the bottom of the standings (15-21), the two teams with the best head-to-head results would make the playoffs. The breakdown, per the WNBA: Lynx (8-2), Dream (5-5), Liberty (4-6), Mercury (3-7). 

A'ja Wilson (22) and her Las Vegas Aces are trying to lock down the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo Sports US A'ja Wilson (22) and her Las Vegas Aces are trying to lock down the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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