On Thursday, four teams will play in win-or-go-home games. The No. 6 seed Chicago Sky will match up against the No. 7 seed Dallas Wings (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2), and the No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury will challenge the No. 8 seed New York Liberty (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
Here’s what’s on the line for each team.
A win for the Sky means: A chance to salvage an underwhelming season. After signing Candace Parker and returning last year’s competitive core, Chicago was supposed to compete for a title. The pieces haven’t fit together, though. No. 6 seeds are 4-1 overall in the first round since the WNBA’s new playoff format.
A win for the Wings means: The rebuild around Arike Ogunbowale is working. Dallas is in the playoffs for the first time since 2017, after losing Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith to forced trades. Now they have the players to compete again. No. 7 seeds are 1-4 overall in Round 1.
A win for the Mercury means: Brittney Griner’s MVP-caliber season lasts another day. Phoenix is by far the best team of the night, co-starred by Diggins-Smith and hopefully (fingers crossed) Diana Taurasi, who sprained her ankle on Sept. 6. No. 5 seeds are 4-1 in the opening round of the playoffs.
A win for the Liberty means: We’ll never say the numbers 2-20 again. New York had the second-worst record of all-time last season, and a playoff win would show a total reversal from the wubble disaster. No. 8 seeds are 1-4 in this playoff format.
The second round of single-elimination games begins on Sunday before best-of-five semifinals series begin on Tuesday. Only the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces are free of knockout games as the top-two seeds.
Thursday night’s WNBA slate is STACKED with talent, and the win-or-go-home template makes every minute must-watch. This is the NCAA tournament before the NCAA tournament!