The Los Angeles Sparks claimed the WNBA Championship Oct. 20 in Minnesota. This afternoon, they’ll return to their city to greet their fans with their first trophy since 2002.
The playoffs this season featured a new format that took the top eight teams from the league instead of the top four teams from each conference.
With the Finals officially in the books, it’s appropriate to take a look back at the historic playoff series of the 20th season of the WNBA.
It’s only fitting that the storyline that rocked the league at the beginning of the season made an encore in the Finals. The Lynx and Sparks met for the first time June 21 in a matchup of undefeated teams. It marked the first time that two teams from the WNBA, NBA, NHL, MLB, or MLB who were better than 10-0 met. While the Lynx took the first game in the series, the Sparks came back just three days later in a rematch battle.
As in the regular season, the Sparks and Lynx gave fans a classic Finals matchup that some are hailing as one of the best of all time.
— WNBA (@WNBA) October 23, 2016
Another story from the West this season came with the Seattle Storm. Alongside rookie of the year Breanna Stewart, the Storm returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The team’s season was expected to turn around after picking up the former UConn standout number one in the draft. Alongside veteran Sue Bird and former Notre Dame star Jewell Lloyd, the trio brought greatness back to Seattle basketball.
As for the Phoenix Mercury, the team had a rough start to the season. The team was expected to be a major contender but barely scraped into the playoffs in the eighth seed. The team finally had their starting five all back together, but a championship just wasn’t in the cards for the Mercury this year. While the classic conundrum of meeting the Lynx in the semifinals stalled Phoenix once again, the team still gave Penny Taylor a great send final season send-off.
Despite being relatively quiet in the later part of the playoffs, the Eastern Conference had their share of battles in the post season.
The Chicago Sky outlasted any team heading into the postseason despite an Elena Delle Donne lacking roster. The Sky outlasted the Atlanta Dream in the round 2 in a 108-98 victory. Unfortunately, the Sparks crushed their hopes of advancing towards the Finals in a four-game series.
Angel McCoughtry averaged 22.8 points per game in the playoffs alone. While the Dream were out after two games in the post season, the mix of experience and young players on the team foreshadow the potential for a deeper run next season.
The Indiana Fever’s season included a continuous farewell tour of Tamika Catchings. While the Fever were knocked out in the first round of playoffs by the Mercury, Indiana’s season also featured the breakout season of rookie Tiffany Mitchell. Mitchell averaged 8.6 points per game and around 20 minutes. After spending a year being mentored by Catchings and the rest of the Fever, Mitchell’s seasons to come are promising.
The Mercury also eliminated the New York Liberty from the playoffs. The Liberty held the highest seed out of the Eastern Conference with a 20-13 record. Despite it being Swin Cash’s final season, a playoff run just wasn’t in the cards for the New York team.