WNBA Playoffs: Preview, schedule & stars to watch

Four-time champions Seattle Storm will look to claim their second consecutive title but must fend off a tough eight-team field as the WNBA playoffs approach.

By Will Imbo

After a thrilling campaign that saw an extended mid-season break to accommodate the Tokyo 2020 Olympic basketball tournament, we now know the eight teams that will vie for the WNBA championship.

You can find more information on the WNBA postseason starting on Thursday 23 September. - including the stars to watch, key schedule dates and more - in our preview below.

WNBA playoff bracket and schedule

The 2021 WNBA playoffs begin on Thursday, 23 September, with the opening two games of the postseason competition: the Dallas Wings face the Chicago Sky, while the New York Liberty take on the Phoenix Mercury in the first round. Both games are single-elimination contests, meaning the winners advance to the second round while the losers are eliminated from the playoffs.

The second round (scheduled to start on 26 September) also uses a single-elimination format, while the semi-finals (starting on 28 September) and WNBA Finals (10 October) are each a best-of-five series.

The regular season records of the eight teams that clinched a playoff berth determined the seeding of the tournaments, with the top two seeds earning a double-bye to the semi-finals, with the No.3 and No.4 seeds earning byes to the second round.

The Connecticut Sun, with a league-best record of 26-6, secured the No.1 overall seed on 12 September after winning their 12th consecutive game.

Stars and teams to watch

The Seattle Storm may have failed to secure an automatic bye to the semi-finals, but make no mistake about it - the defending champions are still a powerhouse team that should be respected in the postseason.

The Storm are four-time WNBA champions, with victories in 2004, 2010, 2018, and 2020, and are one of two teams who have never lost a WNBA Finals (the now-defunct Houston Comets were also four-time champions). They also happen to be the inaugural victors of the Commissioner's Cup, which made its debut this season.

The Storm's 2021 roster is full of elite talent, including future Hall of Famer Sue Bird (one of only two Olympic basketball players (the other being Diana Taurasi) to win five gold medals) and two-time Finals MVP and Olympic gold medallist Breanna Stewart.

You can find out more about Bird's incredible career here.

Yet if the Storm are to go on and claim a historic fifth WNBA title (breaking a three-way tie for most championships (four) with the Comets and Minnesota Lynx), they will likely have to get by the Sun and/or the Las Vegas Aces.

The Aces, who were swept by the Storm in the 2020 Finals, have returned to the postseason with a vengeance after racking up a 24-8 record (beating the Storm twice in the process). Like Seattle, Las Vegas possess immense talent of their own, including 2020 league MVP and Tokyo 2020 gold medallist A'Ja Wilson, Tokyo 2020 3X3 gold medallist Kelsey Plum, and London 2012 bronze medallist Elizabeth Cambage.

The Sun should also prove to be formidable foes for any opponent in the playoffs, and will hold a hefty advantage over whomever they will face in the semi-finals thanks to their automatic bye and added rest; not to mention the impact of outstanding talent Jonquel Jones (19.5ppg, 11.3rpg).

Keep an eye on the Phoenix Mercury too, who boast the league's No.2 top scorer in Brittney Griner (21.0 ppg) and five-time Olympic gold medallist Taurasi.

Regardless of what the series match-ups will look like, the WNBA 2021 playoffs look set to be one of the best yet. Be sure to catch the action, beginning on Thursday, 23 September!