Basketball fans are ready for the 2014 WNBA playoffs to begin, and the focus for many has shifted to the details surrounding one of the best postseasons in women’s sports.
With top contenders like the Phoenix Mercury and Atlanta Dream entering the playoffs as No. 1 seeds and underrated teams like the Minnesota Lynx and Chicago Sky trying to shock the league, the chase for the championship will be must-see TV.
Here is the full schedule and TV information, as well as a full breakdown and predictions for the championship favorites.
|WNBA First-Round Playoff Schedule|
|Thursday, Aug. 21||Game 1: Washington at Indiana||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Thursday, Aug. 21||Game 1: San Antonio at Minnesota||9 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Friday, Aug. 22||Game 1: Chicago at Atlanta||7:30 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Friday, Aug. 22||Game 1: Los Angeles at Phoenix||10 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||Game 2: Indiana at Washington||5 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||Game 2: Minnesota at San Antonio||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Sunday, Aug. 24||Game 2: Atlanta at Chicago||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Sunday, Aug. 24||Game 2: Phoenix at Los Angeles||9 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Monday, Aug. 25||Game 3: Washington at Indiana*||TBD||NBA TV|
|Monday, Aug. 25||Game 3: San Antonio at Minnesota*||TBD||NBA TV|
|Tuesday, Aug. 26||Game 3: Chicago at Atlanta*||7:30 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Tuesday, Aug. 26||Game 3: Los Angeles at Phoenix*||10 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Source: WNBA.com. *If necessary.|
Championship Favorites: Phoenix Mercury
The best team in the WNBA this season has been the Phoenix Mercury. The franchise enters the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the team with the most momentum on its side.
After going 29-5 in the regular season (a new WNBA record for most wins), Phoenix carries into the playoffs the top-ranked offense in the league (83.5 points per game), the second-best defense (74.1 points per game) and arguably the most dominant player, Brittney Griner.
The Mercury expressed sheer excitement on Twitter over the team’s achievements:
Phoenix struggled last season, but first-year head coach Sandy Brondello told reporters about the transition the team has made and why the culture of the franchise has changed overnight:
I never look at wins and losses when I take over a team like that. It was more about getting the team together where I thought we needed to be (in order) to be successful. It was team chemistry. And it was buying into playing defense first and playing out of there on the offensive end, which is something new for this franchise. They bought in and really embraced what we wanted to do.
Buying into a system is a big part of the team’s success, but the roster is stacked for the Mercury. Led by WNBA veteran Diana Taurasi, Phoenix is a mature team who don’t let emotion rattle them. While Taurasi (16.2 points per game) is patrolling the guard position, she has a star at the forward position with Candice Dupree, who averaged 14.5 points per game this season.
Both women are ideal complements to the team’s top star Griner.
First and foremost, Griner has matured over the last year and has turned her focus to her defensive play. With an average of 3.79 blocks and eight rebounds per game, the young player has grown into her role as defensive leader. She is a major contributor in the offensive end as well, averaging 15.6 points per game.
With the Mercury’s big three dominating almost every team they have faced this season, look for Taurasi, Griner and Dupree to steal the show throughout the postseason and bring the WNBA Championship to Phoenix.
As seen from her performance throughout the season, Griner has the best chance to be voted Finals MVP if the Mercury win.
Predicted Finish: 2014 WNBA Champions
*Stats via WNBA.com.