WNBA Wrap: Liberty clinch final playoff spot

Published September 20, 2021, 4:00 PMRenee Ticzon

The New York Liberty secured the No. 8 seed as the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks lost their chance of advancing to the playoffs.

Game of the week

Kelsey Plum scored a game-high 23 points as the Las Vegas Aces gave a playoff sampler in their last-minute 84-83 victory against the Phoenix Mercury earlier today. 

Both teams were already safely in the playoffs prior to the game, but there was no slacking off among the players. They were neck and neck as the clock was winding down, and what happened in the last few seconds really took the cake.  

Jackie Young made a putback off a Plum miss that gave the Aces a one-point advantage with 4.3 seconds left. Las Vegas then got a huge defensive stop as Ji-Su Park blocked Brianna Turner’s potential game-winning shot at the buzzer.

Diana Taurasi was still unavailable for the Mercury due to an ankle injury, while the Aces' Liz Cambage played for the first time after being out for three weeks due to COVID-19.

The Aces finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed, while the Mercury ended at No. 5.

Team in the spotlight

The New York Liberty reigned supreme in the furious battle for the final spot of the playoffs. This comes after the Liberty cleared the Washington Mystics (91-80) on Saturday (PHT). 

Natasha Howard snagged a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, with a perfect 5-of-5 shooting clip in the first quarter. Sabrina Ionescu filled up the stat sheet with 22 points, five rebounds, and nine assists.

New York was in a do-or-die situation in the matchup. If the Mystics won the game, they would have clinched the final spot and the Liberty would have been eliminated. However, since New York won, the eighth position was still up for grabs.

The Liberty needed the Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks to lose their final regular season games to make it to the playoffs. Luckily for New York, the Minnesota Lynx and Dallas Wings took care of business, defeating the Mystics and Sparks, respectively.

Big-time ballers

Jewell Loyd of the Seattle Storm played the best game of her career in a 95-85 win against the Mercury on Saturday (PHT). She hit a career-high 37 points after a terrible five-point performance in their previous loss against the Sparks. 

Loyd made a whopping 22 of the Storm’s 24 points in under six minutes in the first quarter. This performance tied Diana Taurasi in 2006 and Brittney Sykes in 2019 for most points by a WNBA player in a quarter. Oh, and those two points she didn’t score, she facilitated by giving an assist to Mercedes Russell for an easy layup. She also ended the first half with 28 points, the most points in a half by any player this season.

Sylvia Fowles carried the load for the Minnesota Lynx in their 92-73 victory against the Indiana Fever, also on Saturday. Her co-starters Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers struggled to get into rhythm offensively, combining for just 16 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Fowles stepped up, scoring a team-high of 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds. The win secured them a slot in the top 4 and eventually ended up at No. 3.

Natisha Hiedeman also put on an excellent game as she was crucial off the bench in the Connecticut Sun’s 84-64 win against the Atlanta Dream earlier today. Hiedeman had 16 points and three assists after averaging just 7.6 points and 1.9 assists in the 2021 season. Hiedeman helped her team secure a 14-game winning streak, as the Sun comfortably sit at the top of the standings heading into the playoffs.

Watch out for...

The playoffs are coming up, and some interesting matchups are about to take place.

The first and second rounds will be played via single-game elimination, meaning each loss will result in an exit.

In the first round, the Phoenix Mercury (No. 5) will take on New York Liberty (No. 8), while the Chicago Sky (No. 6) and Dallas Wings (No. 7) will battle each other for the right to advance to the next phase.

The Minnesota Lynx (No. 3) and Seattle Storm (No. 4), on the other hand, will see action in the second round. They will take on the winners of the first round in a single-elimination game.

The victors of the second round will face the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces, who automatically advanced to the semifinals after securing the top 2 positions. The games will be held in a best-of-five format, with the Sun and Aces carrying the home court advantage.