Professional Sports

Sparks gearing up for new WNBA playoff format

With the Women’s National Basketball Association season coming to a close Sept. 3, the focus is on the playoffs, which start on Sept. 7.

The Los Angeles Sparks are hoping to defend their championship. The Sparks are currently in second place in the Western Conference with a 19-8 record, three games behind the Minnesota Lynx.

Both the Lynx and Sparks have already clinched playoff berths, along with the Connecticut Sun, which leads the Eastern Conference.

The league has changed its playoff format this year with the best eight teams in the league qualifying. The top eight teams will be seeded regardless of conference affiliation.

The top two teams will receive double byes into the semifinals, while the number three and four seeds get single byes. The number five seed will play the number eight seed and the number six seed will play the number seven seed in a single elimination first round. The higher seed winner then plays the number four seed in the next round, while the lower seeded winner plays the number three seed. They also will play a single game, winner advancing.

Once the first two rounds are complete, the number one seed will face the lower seeded survivor, while the number two seed will face the highest seeded winner. Both semifinals series will then play in the best of five, with the highest seed hosting game one, two and five.

The WNBA finals will remain a best of five series.

The Minnesota Lynx has already clinched a playoff berth with the league’s best record so far. They have lost only four games all season while winning 21.

The Connecticut Sun is 17-9 loses, and the top team in the Eastern Conference. Closely behind are the Washington Mystics at 16-10 and the New York Liberty at 15-12.

If the season ended tomorrow, the playoffs would consist of the Lynk and Sparks as the top two seeds, followed by Connecticut and Washington.

New York would be the fifth seed, playing either Seattle or Chicago, which are tied for the eighth best record at 11-16. Phoenix and Dallas would be the sixth and seventh seeds, but that can change in the last three weeks of the season.

It appears the Sparks and Lynx have taken the WNBA rivalry to a new level. MVP frontrunner Sylvia Fowles of the Lynx is averaging 20.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots a game. She is doing that while also shooting a league high 67.5 percent from the field.

This rivalry looks to be another ultimate playoff battle. After a game between the two teams Aug. 11 game, Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike was pleased with the win over Minnesota.

“It was important for this road trip,” she said about a stretch of five straight away games. “We want to be able to secure one of those top two seeds and get that break. It’s essential.”

In the East, Connecticut has clinched its first playoff spot since 2012. They clinched their spot in the playoff Aug. 12 with a win over the Dallas Wings. Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones both recorded double-doubles in the victory.

If the Sparks continue their level of play, they will receive the double bye and most likely face the Lynx in the championship to defend their title.

It should be an interesting final three weeks.

Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at