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Las Vegas Aces target top-two seed for WNBA playoffs

Updated August 22, 2019 - 6:32 pm

Aces coach Bill Laimbeer was complimentary of the atmosphere at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Tuesday night, noting its playoff feel. With the regular season winding down, “all teams right now are playing playoff games,” he said.

Including Las Vegas.

The Aces clinched a playoff berth Sunday with a win at the Chicago Sky, but still have plenty to play for before the postseason begins Sept. 11. They’re third in the WNBA standings with a 19-9 record, a half-game behind the Connecticut Sun (19-8), whom they play at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

If they beat the Sun, the Aces will win the season series 2-1 and control their fate as they compete for a top-two seed. Lose, and they’ll fall 1½ games behind the Sun with four of their final five on the road — and three against teams currently in the eight-team playoff field.

Let’s take a look at the implications for the rest of the regular season and how they will affect the playoffs.

A berth in the semifinals

The playoff format was enacted in 2016 and includes double byes for the first- and second-place teams through the first two rounds into the semifinals. Five of the six WNBA finalists under this format were top-two seeds and received double byes. The Washington Mystics were the exception, finishing as the No. 3 seed last season and beating the No. 2 seed Atlanta Dream in a best-of-five series to earn their berth in the finals.

The Mystics (20-7) have the league’s best record this season.

Semifinal play begins Sept. 17

A No. 3 or No. 4 seed and the quarterfinals

The third and fourth seeds are rewarded with a bye through the first round and into the quarterfinals for a single elimination home playoff game against a round-one winner, which still bodes well for Las Vegas. The Aces are 12-4 at Mandalay Bay Events Center and have lost once to a lower-seeded team — Aug. 9 to the No. 5 Sky.

Their home arena, though, is booked with concerts from Sept. 13 through Sept. 15, meaning the Aces will play at the Thomas & Mack Center if they host a quarterfinal matchup Sept. 15. They lead the No. 4 Los Angeles Sparks by two games and the Sky by 2½ games and are likely to receive at least a No. 3 or No. 4 seed if they don’t implode down the stretch.

Seeds 5-8 and the first round

The fifth and sixth seeds open the postseason Sept. 11 by hosting lower-seeded teams in a single elimination game. The Aces are 5½ games ahead of the No. 7 Phoenix Mercury and will clinch a top-six record and home playoff game with any combination of two Las Vegas wins and Phoenix losses.

More Aces: Follow at reviewjournal.com/aces and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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