The first round of the 2019 WNBA Playoffs kicks off on Wednesday, with three teams with tons of recent playoffs experience and one relative newcomer. The first and second rounds are single-elimination, which means each possession means that much more and execution will be key on both sides of the ball.
In what should be a close game, the No. 6 Seattle Storm host the No. 7 Minnesota Lynx. Both teams have a ton of playoff experience. The defending champion Storm are without their top two stars, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, who were integral to their championship last season. But Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada have been the leaders of Seattle in their absence. The Lynx are without their own future Hall of Famer in Maya Moore, but Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier and Odyssey Sims have been the go-to players all season.
The Storm beat the Lynx in the season series, three games to one. But a lot of basketball has happened since they last met on Aug. 18. Seattle finished the season winning three of its last four games. Meanwhile, Minnesota lost its regular-season finale, but had won five in a row to that point. If late-season execution is any indicator, the Lynx might have a slight edge.
In the first game of the night, the No. 5 Chicago Sky host the No. 8 Phoenix Mercury. The Sky swept the Mercury in the regular season, with the most recent contest ending in a 105-78 victory. The Sky have not made the playoffs since 2016, and only four players remain on the roster from that season: Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Cheyenne Parker and Jamierra Faulkner.
While the Mercury bring a lot of playoff experience, it is unlikely that their star guard Diana Taurasi will take the court in this one. DeWanna Bonner and Britney Griner have been the offensive focuses for the Mercury, doing the bulk of the scoring in all three previous meetings between these teams. It will be their ability to contain the offensive prowess of the Sky that will give the Mercury any chance of advancing to the next round.
Here’s how to watch tonight’s games:
No. 5 Chicago Sky vs. No. 8 Phoenix Mercury
When: Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
How to watch: ESPN2, SN1
Keys to the matchup: The three regular-season matchups were some high-scoring affairs, and that is likely to continue. Phoenix will need to find some more scoring help and get a few more stops on defense, as it let Chicago shoot 50 percent from the field in their last meeting.
No. 6 Seattle Storm vs. No. 7 Minnesota Lynx
When: Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Angel of the Winds Arena, Everett, WA
How to watch: ESPN2, TSN2
Keys to the matchup: 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard and Sylvia Fowles will and should be the main focus for each team, from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. This game will be decided by the team that can get the most people involved, as scoring could be at a premium with both teams being stout defensively.