WNBA Playoffs — Let the games begin


Tonight, at last, is the start of the WNBA playoffs. Atlanta plays Washington at 7:00 ET on NBA TV and online at WNBA LiveAccess. Game two is Los Angeles at Seattle at 11:00 ET on ESPN2. In both cases, the teams faced each other at the end of the season, so they know what to expect — which should make for some exciting games.

In the East, attitude may be the key. Washington is on a roll after winning six in a row and taking the No. 1 seed. Atlanta has been rolling the other way, with six losses in its last seven games.

We’ve heard a lot about the Mystics’ “play by committee” approach, a result of losing Alana Beard for the season. Monique Curry, Crystal Langhorne, Katie Smith and Lindsey Harding have stepped up admirably to run the floor together. Why anybody thought they couldn’t make the playoffs with that kind of talent is beyond me.

Atlanta will have to be the team it as at the first of the season to compete. The Dream have major speed and an aggressive offense but, as Mechelle Voepel said in her chat Tuesday, the team has seemed to be almost sleepwalking at times. But bigs like Sancho Lyttle, Alison Bales, Iziane Castro Marques and Erika de Souza give Atlanta dominance inside, so rebounding and second chance points will be key. And Angel McCoughtry is not about to end her stellar season without a fight.

In the West, LA will be out for blood against red-hot Seattle. It will be an uphill battle, to be sure, but the Sparks won’t go down easily. And you can be sure the Storm is not taking its nemesis for granted.

Seattle has something to prove this season, since it has lost in the first round of the playoffs ever since winning the title in 2004 — and in 2008 and 2009, LA is the team that eliminated them. But this year, MVP candidate Lauren Jackson is healthy and her chemistry with Sue Bird is better than ever. Add Swin Cash and you get my second favorite kind of threesome.

When Candace Parker had to leave the season with an injury, the Sparks already had a losing season and most analysts didn’t expect much. But Tina Thompson proved them wrong, assuming leadership of the team and becoming the league’s career scoring leader in the process. DeLisha Milton-Jones and Noelle Quinn stepped up their scoring as well. Can the Sparks take the Storm? Not likely. But watching the playoff games between two teams with so many veteran players will be a joy, especially with Penicheiro and Bird running the point.

Voepel has a clever column on the playoffs, using Inception as a guide to what bad ideas teams would implant in opposing coaches. It’s a great look at each team’s strengths. Give it a read and let us know what you expect from tonight’s games.

And don’t forget our WNBA Playoff ticket giveaway. Enter now!

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