And then there were four.
With all due respect to the Washington Mystics, this is the final four I think most WNBA fans wanted to see. There are storylines galore, talent oozing off each roster, and awesome twitter graphics to summarize for the newbies:
WNBA SEMIFINALS TEAMS ARE SET pic.twitter.com/ZfREFLoER3
— no its becky (@robocoko) August 25, 2022
On the betting side of things, we get two really tasty underdogs, and some books that can’t agree. (For a while on Thursday, you could bet the Sun at +138 at FanDuel and the Sky at -118 at BetRivers and guarantee yourself money no matter the outcome!)
I’m going to be a bit lengthy in these previews because I want to give advice for the series as a whole, in addition to the Game 1s, so let’s get right into it.
Article plays: 64-43-3 (20.6% ROI)
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WNBA Odds & Picks
Click on game to skip ahead
|Storm vs. Aces Game 1||4 p.m. ET|
|Sun vs. Sky Game 1||8 p.m. ET|
Storm vs. Aces Odds
|Moneyline||+190 / -235|
|Time | TV||4 p.m. ET | ESPN|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
One big injury of note here: Gabby Williams of the Seattle Storm is questionable after suffering a concussion during the Storm’s Game 2 victory over the Mystics. Dearica Hamby remains out for the Aces with no word on any potential return.
Rider on the Storm
Before the postseason began, I pegged the Storm at +600 as my favorite bet for the title. Nothing happened in their Mystics series to cause any doubt, which is good because this was always the pivot series in my mind for that bet.
A lot of smart people out there are incredibly high on the Aces. The consensus number for this series is hovering around Las Vegas -250 / Seattle +200. That line has even moved towards Las Vegas, after opening around -230 / +185.
I’m on the other side of this one, and it comes down, in large part, to the area of the court that determines a lot of basketball games these days: beyond the arc.
The Storm finished the regular season tied for first (with the Aces, of course) in 3-point field goal percentage, with both teams hitting their 3s at a 36.1 percent clip. This is no fluke as a similar roster for Seattle finished 2021 with the best 3-point field goal percentage and was second-best the year before that.
They also get up 3s at a solid rate, coming in fourth in the league by attempting 25.6 per game. The only team to take and make as many threes as the Storm this year? The Aces.
So why advantage Seattle?
The other side of the ball. The Storm sat just in the bottom half of the league in terms of letting their opponents get up 3s, but even more importantly, they held opponents to, easily, the worst field goal percentage on those shots beyond the arc. They allowed opponents to make just 32.0 percent of their 3s. The Sun were second in this category at 32.8%, and the Liberty were third at 33.6.
The Aces? They were on the other end of the spectrum, both in terms of volume allowed and percentage made. No team allowed opponents to take more 3s per game than the Aces this season, and they weren’t particularly strong defending them either, allowing opponents to make 35.6 percent of their 3s, third-worst in the league. All in all, no team allowed more 3s than the Aces this year.
There’s your advantage, Seattle.
There are also a few other trends I’ll be keeping an eye on in this series.
The pace between these two teams when they met in the regular season was absolutely insane. The average pace over the four games eclipsed 97; for comparison’s sake, the Aces led the W with a pace of just over 80 over the course of their season as a whole.
Despite that, they really blew out the over only one time (it crept over in two others and went under the first time they met), and if we take out that crazy 109-100 game to end the season, the two teams averaged 165 points per game in the first three matchups. Game 1 opened at 168.5 where I liked the over and still do at 170.5 – but not any higher.
One area the Aces should do well in limiting the Storm is on the break. The Storm ranked second in the league in fastbreak points this season, but the Aces were one of the better units in limiting opponent fastbreak points. This isn’t as big a deal as the 3-point line because teams average around 18-30 points beyond the arc per game, compared to 8-12 on the break. It could, however, play a role in deciding which player props to attack versus which to stay away on.
Speaking of which, it might seem square, but it’s going to be hard for the books to put the point totals high enough for me to lean toward the unders on Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson this series. The two clearly draw the best out of each other, and each averaged 23 points per game against the other this season.
On the other side of that coin, Tina Charles has struggled mightily against the Aces this season, and if her props are around, I will be looking toward all unders. I also want to watch Game 1 to see where the Storm stick Sue Bird. If you notice her drawing an early assignment on Chelsea Gray, I would look to live bet Gray’s points and assist overs. (BetRivers has been offering those live player props at times this year.)
To finalize and summarize my lengthy analysis, I’m betting the Storm for the full series at +200 at PointsBet, Seattle +190 to win Game 1, and the over at 170.5 but no higher. I also will be adding plenty of player props to the app when they are released, so keep an eye out there for even more ways to play what should be an incredibly fun series.
Two-unit play: Seattle Storm series bet +200
Half-unit play: Seattle Storm Game 1 +190
Half-unit play: Over 170.5
Sun vs. Sky Odds
|Moneyline||+152 / -180|
|Time | TV||8 p.m. ET | ESPN2|
|Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
Kahleah Copper is battling a few maladies — an ankle sprained in practice and a bit of illness — but I think we can all assume she will be on the court showing absolutely no signs of all that as she has done throughout her career.
Do the Sky Live Rent Free?
This series is going to be one of the most fun tests of narrative vs. numbers in recent memory.
These two teams have a healthy history, with the two having met now for the third consecutive season in the playoffs. It started off all fine and dandy for the Sun when they eliminated the Sky in the first round in 2020, but it has been relatively disastrous since. Chicago has won nine of the last 11 meetings since then, having knocked off the higher-seeded Sun in the semi-finals last year before sweeping all four games during the 2022 regular season.
So do the Sky just own the Sun?
Here’s the weird part: the Sun actually match up really well with the Sky on paper. Similar to the last series, the Sun have a strength (their historic and continued success on the offensive glass) that aligns very neatly with a Sky weakness (they gave up the second-most second-chance points in both 2021 and 2022).
And here’s the even weirder part: it’s not as if they haven’t succeeded on that front in their recent outings.
In their four games this regular season, the Sun out-rebounded the Sky 41-13 (!) on the offensive glass. That resulted in the Sun getting up an average of nearly 20 (!) more FGA per game than the Sky in those four games. Yet, the Sky won every single one.
So what on earth happened? Well, for one the Sky just couldn’t miss. Their Effective Field Goal percentage for those four games was over 60 percent, a good margin better than their league-leading 53.5 percent for the season as a whole. On the flip side, the Sun couldn’t buy a bucket to save their lives, coming in at around 47 percent effective field goal percentage, well below their 50.8 season total.
The other factor: the Sky just closed out the Sun really well. The four games were decided by: three, three, four, and eight points, with one of those games going to overtime.
That’s where it comes down to whether you believe the Sky are really living rent-free in the heads of the Sun. Was that simply bad luck over four games this regular season (the series last playoffs was +10 in favor of Chicago; again far from a blowout), or do the Sun get tense and struggle to win against the Sky?
You can probably guess where I’m going here. Narratives flip fast in sports, and we love to retrofit the new narrative while forgetting the past one. If the Sun win this series, it will self-fulfill in that they were simply ready this year, and their time had come to step over this hurdle. They simply had to face this demon to move forward in their journey.
On paper these are two excellent and ridiculously even-matched teams (the Sun had the far better Net Rating this season, in fact), and if anything, the Sun’s strengths fit better against the Sky’s weaknesses than the other way around. I give a tiny, tiny edge to Chicago, but getting the Sun in the +130 range for the series like they are at FanDuel is a must-bet for me.
As such, I like the Sun +144 in Game 1, and I was planning on leaning toward unders in this series given what I believe to be unsustainable shooting from Chicago in this matchup during the regular season. However, the books seemed to sniff that out and posted a pretty low 165 total to start and tempted me into the over. That’s a lean not a full play though.
Finally, regarding player props, I’m going to be looking at Jonquel Jones rebound props again, especially if they are posting 8.5 as the number. I’d also like 9.5 at plus money. Candace Parker has also dominated the Sun this season, but a lot of that has been on those inflated shooting numbers we have been talking about (56/62/94 splits is face-melting stuff), so if it turns out the Sky do indeed just own the Sun, that might be a good angle to look at.
In the end, these picks look eerily similar to our first series previewed above.
Two-unit play: Connecticut Sun series bet +130
Half-unit play: Connecticut Sun Game 1 +152
Half-unit play: Over 165