And then there were four.
The defending champions, the No. 1 overall seed, a retiring legend and a challenger looking for its first title in franchise history advanced to the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs.
The top-seeded Las Vegas Aces had little trouble with the Phoenix Mercury and will now face the Seattle Storm after Sue Bird and Co. eliminated the Washington Mystics. On the other side of the bracket is the defending-champion Chicago Sky, which needed to win two straight contests, including a decisive Game 3 on the road, against the New York Liberty to advance.
Chicago will face the Connecticut Sun after they defeated the Dallas Wings in Wednesday's win-or-go home Game 3 to end the first round.
Unlike the pressure-packed opening round with little room for error in a best-of-three format, the semifinals are best-of-five series with the team with the better record hosting Games 1, 2 and 5.
Here is a look at the full schedule for the two matchups that will determine the participants in the 2022 WNBA Finals.
WNBA Playoff Semifinals Schedule
Sunday, Aug. 28
- Game 1: Seattle Storm at Las Vegas Aces at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN and Watch ESPN
- Game 1: Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
Wednesday, Aug. 31
- Game 2: Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
- Game 2: Seattle Storm at Las Vegas Aces at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
Sunday, Sept. 4
- Game 3: Chicago Sky at Connecticut Sun at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
- Game 3: Las Vegas Aces at Seattle Storm at 3 p.m. ET on ABC and Watch ESPN
Tuesday, Sept. 6
- Game 4 (if necessary): Las Vegas Aces at Seattle Storm at TBD on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
- Game 4 (if necessary): Chicago Sky at Connecticut Sun at TBD on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
Thursday, Sept. 8
- Game 5 (if necessary): Seattle Storm at Las Vegas Aces at TBD on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
- Game 5 (if necessary): Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky at TBD on ESPN 2 and Watch ESPN
Championship Pick: Chicago Sky
The Sky are going to become the first WNBA team to win back-to-back championships since the Los Angeles Sparks did so in 2001 and 2002.
Those repeat dreams appeared to be in serious jeopardy when they blew a late lead and lost Game 1 in their first-round series against New York. It would have been easy for Chicago to rest on its laurels from last season and fold, but the group of playoff-tested veterans instead responded in resounding fashion and won Games 2 and 3 by a combined 56 points.
Chicago showed why it is so dangerous during those two wins with the ability to take control on both ends of the floor with depth that is difficult to match.
Candace Parker is the headliner and for good reason. She is a matchup nightmare with the ability to play point forward and distribute or lead the break all while being a formidable post presence if needed.
Yet the Sky are far from a one-person show. Courtney Vandersloot is the floor general who can hit from the outside, get to the lane and set up teammates, while Kahleah Copper is essentially unstoppable getting to the rim and on the break.
Their overall depth was on full display during the Game 3 win over New York with six players in double figures. Allie Quigley is the sharp-shooter to space the floor, Azura Stevens is the interior scorer who provides a spark off the bench, and Emma Meesseman complements Parker in the frontcourt with the ability to score both inside and out while helping on the boards.
The result is the perfect blend of star power and role players who are accustomed to thriving in these pressure-packed moments from last season's championship run.
That's not even mentioning the defensive intensity, which was the driving force behind the turnaround against the Liberty. Chicago forced 19 turnovers and held New York to 62 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field in Game 2 and then forced 14 turnovers while holding the Liberty to 72 points in Game 3.
In a testament to that depth, Rebekah Gardner came off the bench and hounded Sabrina Ionescu the full length of the court, preventing the Liberty from getting into their offensive sets until late in the shot clock.
Helping Chicago's title chances is the potential for a grueling semifinal series on the other side of the bracket with A'ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum leading the way for the Aces and Breanna Stewart and Bird doing the same for the Storm.
If the Sky can maintain the level of play they demonstrated with their backs against the wall in the first round, they could handle the Sun before the other series ends. That would make them the fresher team for what promises to be a thrilling WNBA Finals.