WNBA playoff picture, standings, projections: Sky clinch a top-two seed; Sparks keep faint hopes alive

The 2022 WNBA regular season is winding down, but the playoff race is heating up. So far, five teams have punched their tickets to the playoffs — the Chicago Sky, Las Vegas Aces, Connecticut Sun, Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics — while the Indiana Fever are the only team to be eliminated. 

Looking closer, there have been no seeds locked in, and a number of exciting races remain. The top three teams are all in the hunt for the No. 1 seed; the Storm and Mystics are battling it out for fourth; and six teams from 6th-11th are in a real scrap for the final three spots. 

As a reminder, the WNBA has once again changed its playoff system. While the top eight teams will still make the playoffs, there are no more byes. Instead, every team will begin play in the first round with a standard bracket format that features the No. 1 seed vs. the No. 8 seed, the No. 2 seed vs. the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed vs. the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed vs. the No. 5 seed. The bracket will not be re-seeded after the first round. 

The first-round matchups will be best-of-three series, with the higher seed playing Games 1 and 2 at home, and the lower seed hosting Game 3. The semifinals and finals will both be best-of-five series with a 2-2-1 format, which means the higher seeds will host Games 1, 2 and 5, while the lower seeded team will host Games 3 and 4. 

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Current standings

1. Chicago Sky (25-8) — Playoff spot clinched

2. Las Vegas Aces (23-10) — Playoff spot clinched

3. Connecticut Sun (22-11) — Playoff spot clinched

4. Seattle Storm (20-13) — Playoff spot clinched

5. Washington Mystics (20-14) — Playoff spot clinched

6. Dallas Wings (16-16)

7. Atlanta Dream (14-18)

8. Phoenix Mercury (14-19)

9. New York Liberty (13-19)

10. Minnesota Lynx (13-20)

11. Los Angeles Sparks (13-20)

12. Indiana Fever (5-29) — Eliminated

As the action continues down the stretch, here’s a closer look at the playoff picture: 

Race for the No. 1 seed

1. Chicago Sky (25-8) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 3 (vs. Storm, at Aces, at Mercury)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sun: won season series 3-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 Phoenix Mercury

The Sky nearly blew a 17-point lead to the Sun but came up with some big shots down the stretch to secure their second straight win, clinching at least a top-two seed. They still have some work to do to hold off the Aces, however, especially with the two teams set to meet next week in a game that will decide the tiebreaker between them. 

2. Las Vegas Aces (23-10) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 3 (vs. Dream, vs. Sky, vs. Storm)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: 1-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sun: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 7 Atlanta Dream

After a surprise loss to the Wings, the Aces bounced back with an impressive road win over the Storm in Sue Bird’s last regular season game in Seattle. A’ja Wilson led the way with 29 points as the Aces kept pace with the Sky in the hunt for the No. 1 seed, moving to one game ahead of the Sun in the race for second place. 

3. Connecticut Sun (22-11) — Playoff spot clinched

  • Games remaining: 3 (two at Sparks, vs. Lynx)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: lost season series 0-4; vs. Aces: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. 6 Dallas Wings

The Sun’s hot streak came to an end on Sunday afternoon with a heartbreaking loss to the Sky, dropping them to 0-4 against the defending champs this season. With that loss, the Sun are officially out of the race for the No. 1 seed. The best they can do now is second place, though even that will be a challenge considering they do not have the tiebreaker against the Aces. 

Two teams fighting for No. 4

4. Seattle Storm (20-13)

  • Games remaining: 3 (at Sky, at Lynx, at Aces)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mystics: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Washington Mystics

5. Washington Mystics (20-14)

  • Games remaining: 2 (at Fever, vs. Fever)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Storm: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 4 Seattle Storm

One of the tightest races right now is in the middle of the standings where the Storm and Mystics are going head-to-head for fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams were in action on Sunday, and both suffered defeats — the Storm at the hands of the Aces, and the Mystics in somewhat controversial fashion to the Sparks

Those results have the Storm in front by a half game in the standings with one game in hand. The Storm also have the tiebreaker between the two teams, which could be the difference maker come the end of the regular season. 

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Spots 6-8 up for grabs

6. Dallas Wings (16-16)

  • Games remaining: 4 (two vs. Liberty, at Mercury, at Sparks)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: 2-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Sparks: 1-2 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Dream: lost season series 1-2; vs. Liberty: 1-0 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: won season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun

The Wings got down by 20 points to the lowly Fever on Saturday night, but they came all the way back to secure an overtime win. Now on a season-long four-game winning streak, the Wings are back to .500 and have a three-game lead over the ninth-place Liberty. They’re in very good shape, but with two games left against the Liberty they still have some work to do to secure a spot. 

7. Atlanta Dream (14-19)

  • Games remaining: 3 (at Aces, vs. Liberty, at Liberty)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: won season series 2-1; Sparks: won season series 2-1; vs. Wings: won season series 2-1; vs. Liberty: 1-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 2 Las Vegas Aces

The shorthanded Dream fell to the Lynx on Sunday, losing the tiebreaker between the clubs in the process. They are now clinging to seventh place via a tiebreaker over the Mercury, and their lead over the ninth-place Liberty is down to half a game with two matchups left between them. The Dream have some real work to do to secure a playoff spot. 

8. Phoenix Mercury (14-19)

  • Games remaining: 3 (vs. Lynx, vs. Wings, vs. Sky)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sparks: season series tied 2-2, currently own tiebreaker via better record against teams above .500; vs. Wings: 1-2 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Dream: lost season series 1-2; vs. Liberty: won season series 2-1; vs. Lynx: lost season series 0-3
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 1 Chicago Sky

The Mercury finally returned home on Saturday, and they got back on track with a massive victory over the Liberty despite being without both Skylar Diggins-Smith (illness) and Diana Taurasi (quad). With this win, the Mercury took the season series with the Liberty and jumped them to move into eighth place in the standings. 

9. New York Liberty (13-19)

  • Games remaining: 4 (two at Wings, at Dream, vs. Dream)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: lost season series 1-2; vs. Sparks: won season series 2-1; vs. Wings: 0-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Dream: 1-1 in season series with two games remaining; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A

Despite Sabrina’s Ionescu’s excellent play of late, the Liberty’s three-game winning streak came to an end in frustrating fashion on Saturday, as they shot 30.9 percent from the field and lost to a Mercury team that was playing without Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi. With that result, they lost the tiebreaker to the Mercury and fell to ninth place in the standings. 

10. Minnesota Lynx (13-20)

  • Games remaining: 3 (at Mercury, vs. Storm, at Sun)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: won season series 3-0; vs. Sparks: won season series 2-1; vs. Wings: lost season series 1-2; vs. Dream: won season series 2-1; vs. Liberty: won season series 2-1 
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A

The Lynx desperately needed a win on Sunday, and they got one as they took care of the Dream in Napheesa Collier’s return to action. Minnesota is now only one game behind both Phoenix (eighth) and Atlanta (seventh) and has the tiebreaker over both of those teams. With three games remaining, including one against the Mercury, the Lynx are right in this. 

11. Los Angeles Sparks (13-20)

  • Games remaining: 3 (two vs. Sun, vs. Wings)
  • Tiebreakers: vs. Mercury: season series tied 2-2, currently losing tiebreaker via worse record against teams above .500; vs. Wings: 2-1 in season series with one game remaining; vs. Dream: lost season series 1-2; vs. Liberty: lost season series 1-2; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. N/A

Thanks to a surprising, somewhat controversial win over the Mystics on Sunday, the Sparks finally snapped their six-game losing streak and kept their faint playoff hopes alive. They are only one game behind both the Dream and Mercury for seventh and eighth, respectively, but do not have the tiebreaker against either team. Plus, they still have two games left against the third-place Sun. 

The bottom of the playoff picture is something of a mess, with the five teams between seventh and 11th in the standings separated by just one game. Each team has at least one game left against the other teams in this group, and only a handful of tiebreakers have been settled. All of which means these current standings are not going to stay the same for long. 

Eliminated

12. Indiana Fever (5-29)

The Fever have now lost 16 straight games and were the first team eliminated from the playoffs. With a sixth straight lottery appearance on the way, they’ll be hoping for some luck with the ping pong balls to help end the worst stretch in franchise history. 

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