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What To Watch For In Each WNBA Semifinals Matchup

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The WNBA semifinals are set, and it’s exhausting to argue that something lower than the true cream of the league has risen to the highest.

Sure, the seventh-seeded New York Liberty gave the Chicago Sky a Recreation 1 scare, and the sixth-seeded Dallas Wings countered the Connecticut Solar in Recreation 2 of their sequence. However finally, the 4 groups that prevailed within the first spherical of the playoffs — the Solar, Sky, Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm — should not simply the highest 4 seeds, however clearly the perfect groups all season throughout the board.

By web score, these have been the WNBA’s high 4 groups in the course of the common season. Not one of the 4 have been outdoors the highest half of the league in offensive score or defensive score, and the group completed 1-2-3-4 in true taking pictures proportion as effectively. 

So loads of what occurs from right here on out has much less to do with the prevalence of 1 crew over one other — every of the 4 remaining squads can plausibly declare to be a favourite to earn a visit to the WNBA Finals — and way more based mostly on how people carry out, to not point out the specifics of every semifinal matchup.

No. 2 Chicago Sky vs. No. 3 Connecticut Solar

FiveThirtyEight favourite: Solar (51 %)

At first look, the Sky appear to be clear favorites right here. They dominated their season sequence with the Solar this 12 months, successful every of the 4 matchups. 

However these 4 video games have been determined by a median of 4.5 factors (all 4 have been in single digits), and one went to additional time. So assuming a Chicago romp can be a mistake. In reality, the Solar really led the WNBA in regular-season web score (by almost 2 factors per 100 possessions over the Aces), and FiveThirtyEight’s projections really place Connecticut because the ever-so-slight favourite to win this sequence and advance to the finals. 

To get there, the Solar don’t must completely match the manufacturing of Chicago’s level guards with their very own — however they do must make it aggressive.

Within the 4 video games between these two groups, Courtney Vandersloot averaged 13.3 factors, 7.8 assists and a pair of.0 steals per recreation, taking pictures 48.7 % from the sector within the course of. You understand, a regular Courtney Vandersloot efficiency. In contrast, the Solar’s extra conventional level guards — particularly, Natisha Hiedeman and DiJonai Carrington — have struggled to attain in opposition to the Sky. In spherical one in opposition to the Wings, Solar head coach Curt Miller turned to unconventional offensive distributors like DeWanna Bonner and Courtney Williams (together with the always-dangerous secondary playmaker Alyssa Thomas) to bridge the hole from the enormously missed Jasmine Thomas, out for the season with a knee damage.

If the Solar fall brief, will probably be as a consequence of lacking Thomas, a blow that will have despatched different groups out of the league’s elite. It’s a credit score to Miller’s teaching that the Solar stay among the many favorites. Nonetheless, he merely wants at the very least some manufacturing out of the PG place — the late-season acquisition of Odyssey Sims pointed to an understanding of this — to defeat the Sky and advance to the Solar’s second WNBA Finals in 4 seasons.

As for the Sky, the blueprint for beating them was solely strengthened of their Recreation 1 loss to the Liberty. As stunning as it’s for a crew that includes four-time 3-point taking pictures contest champion Allie Quigley (amongst different shooters), the Sky haven’t been constant from past the arc, and their failures there have been their undoing.

In wins this season, Chicago is taking pictures 38 % from three, sixth within the league. It isn’t all they do, however it’s a featured a part of their assault when issues are going effectively. Nonetheless, no crew is worse from deep in losses than the Sky, at a paltry 27 % once they have been on the unsuitable aspect of the end result. And the way did they shoot from three within the loss to the Liberty? That’s proper: 28 %. It’s no assure of victory to restrict them from past the arc — New York managed to take action in Recreation 2 and three as effectively — however it’s a prerequisite.

No. 1 Las Vegas Aces vs. No. 4 Seattle Storm

FiveThirtyEight favourite: Aces (64 %)

Within the different semifinal matchup, the Aces face a Storm squad they defeated in three of 4 matchups in the course of the common season, together with twice within the closing 4 video games — and the FiveThirtyEight projections see extra of the identical to return, with Las Vegas put in as a stable favourite to advance to the WNBA Finals. (Largely, that is additionally why the Aces are actually the front-runners within the projections to win all of it). 

A major cause for Las Vegas’ edge ought to come from its finest participant, A’ja Wilson, discovering one other degree in opposition to the Storm in the course of the common season. Of their 4 matchups, Wilson averaged 22.8 factors and 11.8 rebounds per recreation on 52.9 % taking pictures, all above her already stellar common season averages. She even hit 50 % of her threes (on an admittedly small pattern)! 

In fact, Seattle’s Breanna Stewart is able to equally transcendent play: She averaged an similar 22.8 factors per recreation in opposition to the Aces, to go along with 10.0 boards and 45.5 % taking pictures from three. However even when Stewart matches Wilson bucket for bucket, the sequence then turns into a battle between their two supporting casts — and Las Vegas merely runs deeper offensively.

The Aces have essentially the most environment friendly offense within the league, whereas Seattle is available in sixth. The Storm, although, are the higher defensive crew, and it’s no accident that the one time Seattle received was the one time the Storm held the Aces to fewer than 85 factors.

It’s a troublesome needle to string for the Storm. No crew is extra environment friendly, per Synergy, at scoring in transition, as an illustration. However no crew performs quicker than the Aces, and the 2 groups have been almost even on quick break factors per recreation in the course of the season, so an uptempo recreation one wouldn’t clearly favor Seattle the best way it could in opposition to different opponents — notably because the Aces are higher than anybody else at avoiding turnovers, denying simple transition possibilities the opposite means. (That occurs when you possibly can deploy Chelsea Grey, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Younger for lengthy intervals of time collectively.)

All of it makes the Aces a uniquely troublesome matchup for Seattle. Had the Storm drawn the Solar, the particulars of the matchup would possibly make for a distinct story (although Connecticut additionally swept the season sequence in opposition to Seattle). However as it’s, that is removed from the coin-flip that Chicago-Connecticut is on the opposite aspect of the bracket.

Take a look at our newest WNBA predictions.

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