The WNBA’s season got cut short like many other major sports leagues following the national state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the NBA and NHL were the first two leagues to come up with a solution to allow their leagues to finish out the regular season and host playoffs, the WNBA decided that they would follow suit and have their shortened season and playoffs at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The WNBA brought all 12 teams to the bubble, with scheduled testing for all team staff and players, while additionally requiring players to stay at the facilities until their respective season is over. The teams played out a 22-game regular season, losing out on only 12 games to the shutdown.
There will be no fans in attendance and no travel to other cities, which should save some of the physical and mental toll placed on the players. The playoff format will be the same as it has been for the past few years, with the top eight teams making the postseason and the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds getting byes to the semifinals. The first two rounds will be single-elimination playoff games.
The WNBA has done a tremendous job following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that have been set across the country. The first week they had two positive cases, in which they made those team members quarantine for the proper amount of time, then retested the players until they were confirmed with negative results. Since the two positive test results, they have not seen a single positive test to date. Like the majority of other sports leagues in the United States, minus the NFL, there are no fans in attendance, which means there is no home-court advantage for any team going into the playoffs, giving the players just the court and the sport they love to focus on.
The shortened 22-game season has come to a close with the Las Vegas Aces coming out as No. 1. The Aces and the Seattle Storm will get a first-round bye, with both squads boasting a record of 18-4. Tuesday, Sept. 15 kicked off the beginning of the single-elimination rounds. The first of the two games played in the first round pitted the Connecticut Suns versus the Chicago Sky. The Suns took the 94-81 victory, advancing them to the second round. Forward Alyssa Thomas led the way for the Suns with 28 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. For the Sky, guard Allie Quigley scored 19 points, leading the team. In the second game of the first round, the Phoenix Mercury faced off against the Washington Mystics. Phoenix came out on top, winning the nail biter contest 85-84. For Phoenix, guard Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 24 points and had six assists to lead her team to the second round. Mystics guard Leilani Mitchell led her team with 17 points while snagging six rebounds and an impressive three blocks on the night, but the impressive effort fell just short of the Diggins-Smith led Mercury.
The Minnesota Lynx took on the Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Suns took on the Los Angeles Sparks in the second round of the playoffs on Thursday, Sept. 17. In the first game of the evening, the Lynx defeated the Mercury 80-79 in a back-and-forth second round contest. Forward Damiris Dantas led the way for the Lynx, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Following an impressive performance against the Mystics, Diggins-Smith wasn’t the scoring powerhouse for her team in their contest against the Lynx, only scoring 8 points, and adding six assists. Teammate and fellow guard Diana Taurasi turned it up in the absence of Diggins-Smith’s shooting, scoring 28 points and adding nine assists in the elimination loss. The Lynx will go on to play the Seattle Storm in the semifinals series. In the second game of the second round, the Connecticut Suns rolled past the Los Angeles Sparks 73-59. Center Candace Parker led the way for the Suns, scoring 22 points, collecting 14 rebounds, and adding five assists, leading her team in every category. The semifinals kick off on Sunday, Sept. 20 and will continue as a best of five-game series. The WNBA Finals will kick off on Friday, Oct. 2, in another best of five series.