WNBA Quarterfinals Takeaways: Don’t count out the Sun when it matters most

Nikki Reyes & Sportsnet WNBA writer Hayley McGoldrick break down the upcoming WNBA Semifinals with key players to watch including Canadian’s ready to make some noise.

Eight playoff spots. Six games done. Four teams left. Two semifinals set.

The WNBA playoffs have been off to an intense start, with not one but two single-elimination games to decide who would be facing off against the Las Vegas Aces and the Seattle Storm in the best-of-five semifinal matches.

With four of the eight teams already eliminated from the playoffs, here are some takeaways from the first six games.

Don’t count Connecticut out

The Connecticut Sun’s record going into the playoffs is sub-.500 at 10-12, and they lost six of their first seven games in the wubble, too, before turning their season around — winning enough key games against teams like the Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks to get them into the post-season.

Now, they look to head into a semifinal matchup against the No. 1 Aces.

The two difference-makers for the Sun have been DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas. Bonner, who played her entire career up until this year with Phoenix, recorded a double-double in both of the Sun’s playoff games, including 17-point, 13-rebound performance in the Sun’s dominance over a top-ranked Sparks team. Thomas, meanwhile, came up big in the Sun’s win over L.A. with a line of 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Los Angeles doesn’t feel like home

Set to be a free agent at the end of next season, Candace Parker said in a post-game interview after the Sparks had been eliminated by Connecticut that while she has played in Los Angeles her whole career and she’s loyal, at the same time her inevitable decision won’t be based on what others think of her.

Parker put up 22 points and 14 rebounds in the loss, with the next closest scorer on the Sparks scoring just 10 points.

With Nneka Ogwumike sidelined, the Sparks were without one of their best players, but for the No. 3 to be embarrassed by the seventh seed 73-59, the morale of the team for players like Parker was low.

“We can’t keep saying, ‘Next Year.’” Parker said after the game.

The Sparks won the WNBA title in 2016, a year where Ogwumike was voted the league’s MVP. And this season, they had lost their last three games before being eliminated, with many players feeling heartbroken ending their season on a low note.

The Lynx mean business

The Minnesota Lynx have had themselves quite the season. Crystal Dangerfield made history when she was voted Rookie of the Year, becoming the lowest-drafted rookie (16th overall) to win the award. Head coach Cheryl Reeve was named Coach of the Year. And even with an injured Sylvia Fowles and a newly-married Maya Moore opting out of the league’s restart, the Lynx thrived with players like Odyssey Sims and Rachel Banham stepping up to assist Napheesa Collier and Damiris Dantas in creating offence for them.

And with Fowles returning to the lineup, the Lynx managed to pull off an 80-79 nail-biter against the Mercury in their quarter-final matchup.

Though the Lynx were the higher seed, it didn’t feel like it, with veteran stars Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi powering the Mercury during their last few games — and Taurasi even dropping 28 in what may have been her last WNBA game ever.

The Lynx, however, were more than deserving of the win with four different players scoring in double digits — an indication of the team-effort approach that has been working for Minnesota all season long.

Dantas and Dangerfield combined for 39 of Minnesota’s 80 points, while Rachel Banham scored 11 off the bench for the Lynx. Matching up against the top-ranked Storm, the Lynx will now have to shift their focus to the boards and look to out-rebound their opponent, a struggle of theirs during the regular season.

The WNBA deserves more playoffs

Though the WNBA only has 12 teams, with two-thirds of them making the playoffs the league deserves more than four single-elimination games to determine their semifinal teams.

In the NBA, eight teams from each conference make the playoffs, with two best-of-seven rounds before the Conference Finals. The WNBA has two single-elimination games for the bottom-four seeds, then another single-elimination game for the winners to play the No. 3 and 4 seeds.

Though the Sun have continued to prove doubters wrong — what they have dubbed as #DisrespeCT — the Mercury had more in them than the two playoff games they got to play. Shey Peddy scored a buzzer-beater against the team that cut her, the Washington Mystics, only to lose by one point in their next game against Minnesota.

In a best-of-five series for either of those games, the outcomes could have been different. Even for the Sparks who worked all season to secure the third seed only to succumb to injuries, many players were distraught as they couldn’t comprehend working all season just for it to end in one game.

Allowing players to play a best-of-five series would not only give fans more basketball, but also allow teams to come back from a slump — something entirely impossible in the current format.

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