Sunday will be a momentous occasion for women’s basketball and for the Aces.
Sue Bird, the legendary Seattle Storm point guard, will play the final regular-season game of her storied career against the Aces at Michelob Ultra Arena. And the Aces can clinch the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs with a win.
As for Bird, Aces coach Becky Hammon said, “I don’t think you can quantify what she’s meant to women’s basketball.”
Bird, the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists, made her debut in the WNBA in 2002. She played 19 seasons across 21 years, all in Seattle where she won four championships. Bird is also a five-time Olympic gold medalist, sharing her most recent accomplishment with Aces All-Star A’ja Wilson.
“I’ve got to give her the respect she’s due all the time,” Wilson said. “I’m honored to be her teammate on the Olympic team, especially getting her fifth one alongside her. … It’s all love, for sure.”
As for the Aces, after beating the Chicago Sky 89-78 Thursday, the 25-10 Aces hold the tiebreaker against the reigning champions. A win Sunday guarantees them the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
However, an Aces loss Sunday, coupled with a Chicago win against the Phoenix Mercury, hands the No. 1 seed back to the Sky (25-10)
Those are the simple scenarios for Sunday. Things get more complicated depending on what happens with the Connecticut Sun. Currently the No. 3 seed, the Sun (24-11) play the Minnesota Lynx Sunday.
If the Aces and Sky lose and the Sun win Sunday, the three teams will all be tied on record. That would trigger a tiebreaker among the three teams based on head-to-head results.
The Sky swept the Sun during the regular-season 4-0 and would take the tiebreaker with a 5-2 combined record against the Sun and Aces for the No. 1 seed.
The Aces beat the Sky and the Sun 2-1 this season. Their tiebreaker record would be 4-2 and they’d get the No. 2 seed. Connecticut would be 1-6 in the tiebreaker and the No. 3 seed.
If all three of the top seeds lose Sunday, the Aces get the No. 1 seed based on their tiebreaker with Chicago.
Hammon refuses to manipulate her team’s seeding for advantageous matchups in the playoffs. She says playing games with the basketball gods usually ends in misery. Instead, she simply wants her players to perform and give a full 40 minutes of defense and effort.
The Aces coach admitted home-court advantage will certainly be important for the first round — where the top-seeded team hosts the first two games. However, the semifinals and finals will still require the Aces to beat some of the best teams in the league, regardless of who’s at home or away.
“In some ways, I’ve liked us on the road better than at home,” she said.