The Storm know who they’re facing in the WNBA playoffs – it’s the Washington Mystics – but they don’t know where they’ll begin postseason play that starts next week.
Seattle (21-13) controls its fate and can clinch the No. 4 seed, which secures home-court advantage in the first round, with a road win Friday (6 p.m. PT) against the Minnesota Lynx (14-20) at the Target Center.
A Storm loss and subsequent defeat in the regular-season finale at Las Vegas on Sunday, plus Washington wins in their final two regular-season games gives home-court advantage to the Mystics.
Considering Washington (20-14) finishes the season with a pair of games against the Indiana Fever (5-29), which is riding a 16-game losing streak, the Storm likely needs one more win to start the playoffs at home.
“We’re just focused on the next game,” guard Jewell Loyd said. “That’s how you get trapped. That’s how you get distracted when you try to think ahead. … We still got to finish. Nothing is set in stone yet. We got to worry about Minnesota. We’ll focus on Vegas when we get there and worry about the playoffs once they start.”
It’s difficult to discern the importance of home-court advantage in the playoffs due to the WNBA’s new playoff format, which eliminated single-elimination games and byes.
All eight playoff teams will participate in a first round best-of-three series in which the higher seed hosts the first two games.
The semifinals and WNBA Finals are a best-of-five format that has the higher seed hosting Games 1, 2 and 5 while the lower seeds hosts Games 3 and 4.
Since Loyd joined the Storm in 2016, they’re 1-4 in postseason elimination games, including three road defeats. Last year, Seattle was knocked out of the playoffs in a second-round defeat in Everett.
“Based on the new format, you get two games at home and you can close out the series right away instead of playing on the road,” Loyd said. “Obviously, we want to play in front of our fans as much as possible. To do that to start the playoffs would be nice, but we got to get there and make sure we solidify that first.”
Seattle is 2-1 against Washington, including a blowout 85-71 win at home on June 23 and an 82-77 road victory on July 30. The Mystics beat the Storm 78-75 on July 31.
“I think we match up quite well against them,” center Ezi Magbegor said. “When we played them in D.C., obviously those two games were a lot closer than the first one. They’re an energy team as well. When they go on runs we have to figure out ways to stop them. It’s an exciting matchup.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota is locked in a four-team tie for seventh place and scrambling to make a 12th straight playoff appearance after starting the season 3-13. A slew of absences and injuries resulted in constant lineup changes and inconsistent performances, but Minnesota is 4-1 in its past five games.
Three months after giving birth to a daughter, two-time WNBA All-Star Napheesa Collier made her season debut earlier this week. Collier said she returned so quickly from maternity leave to rejoin Lynx great Sylvia Fowles, who is retiring after the season and plays her final regular-season home game on Friday.
“I came here with the goal of playing with (my teammates) again and especially Syl, as I’ve made that no secret,” Collier said following Minnesota’s 81-71 win against the Atlanta Dream on Sunday. “So it felt so good to be on the court at the same time as her for this last season. And it was good to kind of get that rust off too. So, it was nice.
“It’s always so nice to play with Syl. She’s a huge presence, a Hall of Famer. So, any time she’s on the floor obviously good things happen. And it’s so cool to see greatness happening, especially for her last season, like we’re making history doing this and I’m seeing history being made in what she’s doing”
Minnesota is planning a raucous sendoff for Fowles, the WNBA’s all-time rebounds leader, eight-time WNBA All-Star, two-time WNBA Finals MVP and the league’s 2017 MVP who led the Lynx to two WNBA titles (2015 and 2017).
Since being selected No. 2 overall in the 2008 WNBA draft, Fowles has been a benchmark of greatness for WNBA post players.
“Syl has meant a lot to my game,” Storm center Tina Charles said. “She’s someone that I was always chasing as far as her dominance and as far as what she was able to do for every team that she’s been on. For me, that’s what I wanted to reflect.
“Going back to my UConn days and playing against her at LSU, Syl has always been a constant factor where I try to compare where I’m at as far as WNBA players. She definitely will be missed. And her impact off the court as a stand-up woman and how close she is with her family, really meant a lot to us.”