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Features

Everything you need to know about the WNBA playoffs

September 21, 2021, 8:00 PM ● Charmie Lising

The WNBA playoffs begin this week! Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the league’s postseason format, qualification, structure, and schedule.

The Connecticut Sun finished the regular season as the top seed.

Which teams are headed to the WNBA playoffs?

The top eight teams after the regular season made it to the playoffs. 

  1. Connecticut Sun (26-6)
  2. Las Vegas Aces (24-8) 
  3. Minnesota Lynx (22-10)
  4. Seattle Storm (21-11)
  5. Phoenix Mercury (19-13)
  6. Chicago Sky (16-16)
  7. Dallas Wings (14-18)
  8. New York Liberty (12-20)

The bottom four teams, the Washington Mystics (12-20), Los Angeles Sparks (12-20), Atlanta Dream (8-24), and Indiana Fever (6-26), were eliminated from playoff contention.

What was the procedure used for breaking ties?

In this year’s playoffs, the Liberty, Mystics, and Sparks ended up in a three-way tie for eighth place with identical 12-20 records. The Liberty clinched the last playoff spot because they had the best head-to-head record among the three teams.

In order to break a tie between two teams, the following criteria are utilized in the order set forth:

  1. Better record in head-to-head games.
  2. Better winning percentage against all teams with .500 or better record at the end of the season.
  3. Better point differential in games net result of total points scored less total points allowed head-to-head.
  4. Better point differential net result of total points scored less total points allowed against all opponents.

For multiple ties, as many teams as possible are eliminated at each step. As soon as one or more teams are eliminated at any step, the process must begin again from step 1.

Does the WNBA follow a two-conference playoff format?

Unlike the NBA, the WNBA does not follow a two-conference format for the postseason. The top eight teams with the highest winning percentages qualify, regardless of conference, and they are seeded based on their record. 

How many rounds will the playoffs have?

There are four rounds in the WNBA playoffs, the last two rounds being the semifinals and the WNBA Finals. The top two teams after the regular season receive a double bye (straight to the semifinals), while the 3rd and 4th teams receive a single bye (straight to the second round).  

How many games will take place in each round?

For the first round, only the 5th to 8th teams will compete in a single-elimination game. This year, the Mercury (5th) will host the Liberty (8th), while the Sky (6th) will host the Wings (7th).

The second round also features single-elimination games. The Lynx (3rd) will host the lower seed first-round winner, while the Storm (4th) will host the higher seed first-round winner.

The semifinals and the WNBA Finals both follow a best-of-five format.  

Which are the home games for the semifinals and the WNBA Finals?

The top two teams that received a double bye will host Games 1, 2, and 5 of the semifinals. 

This means that the Sun (1st) will host the lower seed second-round winner, while the Aces (2nd) will host the other remaining team, in Games 1, 2, and 5.

The WNBA Finals will also have the same 2-2-1 hosting format.

When did the current playoff format start?

The current postseason format, along with the playoff seeding and qualification procedures, has been in place since the 2016 WNBA season. 

From 2000 to 2015, the top four teams in each conference qualified for the playoffs and were seeded in brackets that are similar to the current NBA format. The semifinals and the WNBA Finals followed a best-of-three format, but the WNBA Finals shifted to best-of-five from 2005 and retained it to this date.

What are the key dates in the WNBA playoffs?

The WNBA playoffs will kick off on September 24 (PHT). The last possible date of the WNBA Finals is October 20 (PHT). 


September 24 (First round)

  • 8:00 AM - Dallas Wings at Chicago Sky
  • 10:00 AM - New York Liberty at Phoenix Mercury

September 27 (Second round)

  • TBD - TBD at Minnesota Lynx
  • TBD - TBD at Seattle Storm

September 29 (Semifinals Game 1)

  • 8:00 AM - TBD at Connecticut Sun
  • 10:00 AM - TBD at Las Vegas Aces

October 1 (Semifinals Game 2)

  • 8:00 AM - TBD at Connecticut Sun
  • 10:00 AM - TBD at Las Vegas Aces

October 4 (Semifinals Game 3)

  • 8:00 AM - Connecticut Sun at TBD
  • 10:00 AM - Las Vegas Aces at TBD

October 7 (Semifinals Game 4, if necessary)

  • 8:00 AM - Connecticut Sun at TBD
  • 10:00 AM - Las Vegas Aces at TBD

October 9 (Semifinals Game 5, if necessary)

  • 8:00 AM - TBD at Connecticut Sun
  • 10:00 AM - TBD at Las Vegas Aces

We will post an updated schedule once available.

Where can fans from the Philippines watch the playoffs?

You can catch all the WNBA games live through the WNBA League Pass.