The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

WNBA playoffs: Schedule, favorites and how to watch

Fronted by leading MVP-candidate Elena Delle Donne, the Washington Mystics are favored to win this year's league title. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The WNBA playoffs begin Wednesday with the bottom-four seeds facing off while the top-seeded Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun sit back and wait for the semifinal round, which begins on Sept. 17. Here’s what you need to know:

How do I watch?

The first round, second round and semifinals will all be aired on ESPN2. In the finals, Games 1 and 2 are on ESPN, Game 3 is on ABC and Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be on ESPN2. All games are also available to stream on WatchESPN.

What’s the schedule?

All times Eastern

First round (single-elimination): Wednesday

Second round (single-elimination): Sunday

Semifinals (best of five): Begin Sept. 17

No. 1 Washington Mystics (26-8) vs. lowest remaining seed

  • Game 1: TBD at Washington, Sept. 17, 8:30 p.m.
  • Game 2: TBD at Washington, Sept. 19, 8:30 p.m.
  • Game 3: Washington at TBD, Sept. 22, time TBD
  • Game 4: Washington at TBD, Sept. 24, time TBD
  • Game 5: TBD at Washington, Sept. 26, time TBD

No. 2 Connecticut Sun (23-11) vs. highest remaining seed

  • Game 1: TBD at Connecticut, Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m.
  • Game 2: TBD at Connecticut, Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m.
  • Game 3: Connecticut at TBD, Sept. 22, time TBD
  • Game 4: Connecticut at TBD, Sept. 24, time TBD
  • Game 5: TBD at Connecticut, Sept. 26, time TBD

Finals (best-of-five): Begin Sept. 29

Remember that under this format, which the WNBA adopted in 2016, teams are reseeded after each round.

Who are the favorites?

It’ll be a big upset if the Mystics don’t take home the league title this year with the way they’re playing. Fronted by leading MVP candidate Elena Delle Donne, Washington’s offense has bulldozed opponents at a historic rate this season, and if they’re healthy, they match up well against almost every team but one (they haven’t quite figured out Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury). The Mystics also expect starting guard Kristi Toliver back for the playoffs, though she hasn’t played a game since Aug. 8 due to a bone bruise in her right knee. It’ll be interesting to see the shape she’s in.

‘Insane numbers’: NBA stars welcome Delle Donne to 50-40-90 club

Which is the early matchup to keep an eye on?

That first-round game between Seattle and Minnesota is a juicy one, as it pits the previous two champions against each other, and both the Lynx and the Storm have had quite the journey this year. Seattle lost its two superstars for the season when Sue Bird underwent knee surgery and Breanna Stewart, last season’s MVP, suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury while playing overseas.

Minnesota, meanwhile, had to reshuffle after Lindsay Whalen retired at the end of last season and Maya Moore decided to take a basketball sabbatical. Luckily for Lynx fans, rookie of the year candidate Napheesa Collier, the former Connecticut Huskies star, has made Minnesota a treat to watch. Ditto Natasha Howard for Seattle, the dominant forward who led the Storm in scoring (18.1 points per game) and rebounding (8.2).