A look at the best-of-3 first-round series in the WNBA playoffs, which starts Wednesday:
No. 1 Las Vegas (34-6) vs. No. 8 Chicago (18-22)
Season series: Aces, 3-0
Game 1: Wednesday
Las Vegas: The defending champions looked poised to become the first team to repeat since Los Angeles did it in 2001-02. Las Vegas had the best offense, averaging 92.8 points and set a WNBA-record for offensive efficiency rating with 113.0. Led by MVP candidate A’ja Wilson, the Aces have a potent offense. Wilson is joined by stellar guards Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young. The trio averaged 51.1 points and 15.5 assists. The only question for the team right now is its depth. Candace Parker has been sidelined since having surgery on her foot in late July. The playoff schedule does help the Aces with so many days between games.
Chicago: The Sky were the final team to qualify for the playoffs, but has a lot of experience between 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper and Courtney Williams, who helped the Connecticut Sun reach the championship round last season. Copper is the only starter left from that title team. The Sky overcame some mid-season adversity when coach James Wade left to coach in the NBA.
No. 3 Connecticut (27-13) vs. No. 6 Minnesota (19-21).
Season series: Sun, 3-1
Game 1: Wednesday
Connecticut: The Sun start on offense and defense with Alyssa Thomas, who led the league in rebounding and assists. Thomas became the first player in league history to record at least 600 points, 400 rebounds and 300 assists in a single season. She also had six triple-doubles. Connecticut, which made the WNBA Finals last season, had a change in coaches with Stephanie White taking over. She had to revamp the offense a month into the season when Brionna Jones went down with an Achilles tear.
Minnesota: The Lynx started the season 0-6 and looked like they were headed to the draft lottery before turning things around, becoming just the second franchise to reach the postseason after beginning the year with at least six losses. Napheesa Collier was a big reason why as she averaged 21.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. She had help from a pair of rookies in Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhasz.
No. 4 Dallas (22-18) vs. No. 5 Atlanta (19-21)
Season series: Wings, 3-0
Game 1: Friday
Dallas: The Wings had a great season and have a potent inside-outside game. No one can match Dallas’ interior strength with Teaira McCowan, Natasha Howard and Satou Sabally. Couple those three with stellar guard Arike Ogunbowale and the Wings can beat teams in many different ways. Dallas has made the playoffs in five of its eight seasons in the city, but still is looking to get out of the first round for the first time.
Atlanta: The Dream are in the postseason for the first time since 2018 led by its trio of Rhyne Howard, Cheyenne Parker and Allisha Gray, who spent the first six seasons of her career in Dallas before joining Atlanta this year. Monique Billings is the lone player on the roster that was on the team in 2018.
No. 2 New York (32-8) vs. No. 7 Washington (19-21)
Season series: Tied, 2-2
Game 1: Friday
New York: The Liberty rebuilt its roster in the offseason adding Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot and had the best season in franchise history. New York won the Commissioner’s Cup championship beating Las Vegas and is now hoping to win its first WNBA title. Stewart finished second in the league in scoring and scored more than 40 points four times this season. Sabrina Ionescu set the single-season mark hitting 128 3-pointers. The Liberty finished the season winning eight of its last 10 games. Turnovers have been a problem for New York during the course of the season and Washington is really good at jumping passing lanes and getting steals.
Washington: The Mystics were beset by injuries all season long and still could be without forward Shakira Austin for the playoffs as she’s dealing with a hip injury. Washington has a strong nucleus though that includes Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins, who were all on the 2019 title team. Add to that Brittney Sykes, who is one of the top defenders in the WNBA, and Washington could cause problems for New York. Rebounding against the bigger Liberty could be an issue for the Mystics.
Prediction: New York
___ AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball