How underdogs have dominated the WNBA playoffs

How underdogs have dominated the WNBA playoffs

Upsets are exceptionally rare in the WNBA Playoffs however were seeing two Cinderella runs playing out across the WNBA semifinals.
In 2016, the WNBA embraced its present playoff system, ranking groups without regard to which conference the groups remained in. Because the No. 1-8 seeding format started, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have met in the Finals in 4 of the 5 seasons. The exception was 2018 when the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds met.
In fact, lets stretch this deeper. Back when the playoffs were seeded by conference, the No. 1 seed in either the East or the West made it to Finals every year except 2006 (both No. 2 seeds made it). Weve seen some Cinderella runs, but 2 of them in the exact same season is unprecedented.
Well, were on the edge of history. Both WNBA semifinals series include the lower seed up 2-1, with Phoenix and Chicago both needing to win just among the next 2 video games to make the WNBA Finals.
How did we get here?
It depends on which series were talking about.
How Chicago has actually taken Connecticut to the verge in the WNBA Playoffs
Chicago/Connecticut has actually been an interesting series, mainly due to the fact that Chicago– 16-16 in the regular season– is a better team than the six seed recommends.
In the 23 games where Candace Parker played, Chicago went 15-8. The team won 9 of those video games by double-digits. The Parker-less Sky had a hard time in the routine season, however the full-strength Chicago Sky were a hazardous group.
Parker is healthy and how the team played with Parker, this series should not be viewed as a big surprise: 2 good groups are playing each other close. Chicago has a double OT win and a three-point win.
Chicago has actually done an excellent job limiting Jonquel Jones in this series and forcing the other Sun gamers to beat them. Today, those other players arent getting that done. Jones is still taking about the same number of shots per video game as in the regular season, however her shooting portions have dropped big time, down to 41.5 percent after shooting 51.5 percent in the regular season.

Having Candace Parker to put on Jones is an excellent thing for this Sky team. On this play, Jones tries to back Parker down, but that doesnt truly anywhere, so she end up trying the turn-around, one-leg fadeaway jumper. Its off-balance. It doesnt enter.
On the other, when your flexible, MVP gamer hasnt attempted a 3 in the previous 2 video games after going 2-for-5 in Game 1, thats a concern. Chicago isnt truly understood for being a protective team, but its making it work in these playoffs.
Offensively, the Sky have upped the rate in the postseason. The group had a 79.6 speed in the routine season. In this series, thats up to 90.2. They likewise shot 36.4 percent and 45.0 percent in the two victories. Chicago has actually been truly excellent this year when shooting that well from deep: in the regular season, the Sky shot 36 percent or much better from three 14 times– the team went 12-2 in those video games.
Chicago leading this series is quite simple: theyre playing quickly. In Game 3, they had a 10-2 benefit in fastbreak points. They were likewise aggressive, taking and drawing fouls 19 complimentary throws to Connecticuts 10 free throws.
This series isnt over. When the shots are off, three-point portion is a pretty unpredictable thing and the Sky battle to win video games. The defensive video game plan is working to restrict Jones, which is putting a lot of pressure on DeWanna Bonner– never the most efficient scorer– and Alyssa Thomas, who is coming off a torn Achilles and is playing with two torn shoulder labrums. If Chicago desires to continue getting upset wins over the No. 1 seed, theyll need to keep pressuring Jones, requiring her into objected to looks and getting the ball out of her hands.
The Aces look lost against the Mercury
While the Chicago/Connecticut series has boiled down to how the ball is bouncing, the Mercury/Aces one feels different. In two of the three video games, the Aces have simply looked completely out of it, to the point where it seems like this series is over.
That doesnt imply it is over, of course. Vegas is a skilled team and has among the 3 best ladiess basketball gamers on the planet in Aja Wilson. Through 3 games, something is missing.
In Sundays win, Phoenix held the Aces to under 20 points in 3 of the 4 quarters, consisting of holding them to 8 points in the fourth. The Aces shot 3-for-16 because quarter and regardless of being down so much, took just two 3-pointers.
I tweeted this recently:

a cool thing about this years aces group is that while they still were 12th in the league in three-point attempts, i do not feel the requirement to yell about that like i used to
— Justin Carter (@juscarts) September 29, 2021

But Ill go ahead and shout about it with regards to this video game. Phoenix was dominating within, with a 42-24 benefit on points in the paint and 20 second-chance points. Vegas, however, just didnt really adjust.
Compare the two groups shot charts, per the WNBAs statistics website:

Vegas was taking a lot of midrange shots in this game. Thats great if youre making them– you can see on the shot chart that the Mercury were making a good variety of those top-of-the-key attempts– however Vegas wasnt.
Hey, whatever– shot choice is always going to be a concern on a Bill Laimbeer-coached team and Ive invested a lot of years talking about that. Vegas can make it through poor shot choice. What the Aces cant make it through is letting Phoenix shoot 50.5 percent so far in this series. The Mercury are likewise shooting 37.2 percent from 3, up from 34.6 percent in the routine season.
Last video game, the Aces let Brianna Turner score 23 points. For context, Turner balanced 7.8 points per video game in the regular season. Shes not really an offending danger, however the Aces just kept letting her score:

When a group has Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and Diana Taurasi, it can be simple to focus excessive on them and forget another person. On the above play, for example, the Aces just collapse on Diggins-Smith as shes driving. That leaves space for SDS to turn the ball over to an open Turner, who finishes the little alley-oop layup here.
The Aces defense simply kept enabling Turner to complete at the hoop. Over and over, the defense would be focused on stopping the other alternatives, Turner would run complimentary into the paint, and the Aces wouldnt have the ability to use more than nominal resistance.
With blowout wins in each of the past two games, its clear that what Vegas is doing isnt working. The Mercury were truly great in the second half of the season, and Griner, in specific, has actually just been an issue for Vegas.
The combination of the Aces not adjusting on offense and the Aces not adjusting on defense has this team on the verge of being knocked out of the postseason.

The team won nine of those video games by double-digits. On the other, when your versatile, MVP gamer hasnt attempted a 3 in the previous two games after going 2-for-5 in Game 1, thats an issue. Chicago has been actually excellent this year when shooting that well from deep: in the regular season, the Sky shot 36 percent or much better from 3 14 times– the group went 12-2 in those video games.
The protective game strategy is working to restrict Jones, which is putting a lot of pressure on DeWanna Bonner– never ever the most efficient scorer– and Alyssa Thomas, who is coming off a torn Achilles and is playing with 2 torn shoulder labrums. With blowout wins in each of the past 2 video games, its clear that what Vegas is doing isnt working.