Despite not playing on the five-game regular-season finale of WNBA's historic 25th season, the New York Liberty were the eventual victors of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Courtesy of losses by both the Washington Mystics and the Los Angeles Sparks on the final day, the Liberty advance to their 16th postseason in franchise history and the first since 2017. Thus, snapping their longest playoff drought of three years.
Their qualification sets up the bracket for the 2021 playoffs.
The #WNBAPlayoffs bracket is set ✅- WNBA (@WNBA) September 19, 2021
Single elimination games start this THURSDAY at 8pm/ET on ESPN2 😈 @Google pic.twitter.com/r73XQ99Sx4
Washington lost to the Minnesota Lynx 83-77 while Los Angeles lost a close one to the Dallas Wings 87-84. A win by either the Mystics or Sparks would have seen them qualify on the back of a better record, with Washington winning the tiebreaker over Los Angeles if both won.
Instead, both teams lost and the trio were tied at a record of 12-20 with the Liberty coming out on top, having clinched the season series 2-1 against the Mystics a couple of days earlier with a 91-80 win and on the back of a better record against all teams with a .500 or better record at the end of the season as compared to the Sparks.
These playoffs come off the back of a two-win 2020 season for the Liberty, their worst season in franchise history. This postseason will also be the first for Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Connecticut Sun keep marching on
Earlier in the day, the Connecticut Sun - the league's top seed - were taking on the 11th seeded Atlanta Dream and they handily took care of business.
The comfortable wire-to-wire 84-64 win saw the Sun extend their current win streak to 14, which is the fourth-longest win streak in WNBA history. It is also the most consecutive wins recorded by a team to cap-off the regular season.
League MVP frontrunner Jonquel Jones, who finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks, was among the top contributors for the team while her teammate Brionna Jones recorded 14 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and a block.
With this victory, the Sun finish the regular season with a league-best 26-6 record, which ensures them a double-bye and rest until Sep. 28 when the playoff semifinals begin.
Liz Cambage returns in Mercury-Aces thriller
In one of the final games of the night, two of the top teams in the league - the Las Vegas Aces and the Phoenix Mercury - faced-off against each other.
In a hard-fought battle, the Aces came out on top 84-83 courtesy of a game-high 23 points from reserve guard Kelsey Plum. For the Mercury, who were playing without Diana Taurasi, guard Skylar Diggins-Smith was the top contributor with 17 points and seven assists.
With their playoff fate and seeds sealed, this was a dead-rubber season-series finale between the two teams. One of the major storylines coming out of this one was the return of four-time All-Star Liz Cambage.
The Aussie, making her return to the court for the first time since Aug. 28 due to COVID-19, finished with four points and four rebounds in about 10 minutes of play off the bench.
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