WNBA assist leader Bird vs top scorer Taurasi in playoffs
NEW YORK (AP) There's definitely star power with veterans Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird and young phenoms Skylar Diggins and Breanna Stewart playing in the two single-elimination games to start the WNBA playoffs.
The WNBA playoffs open Wednesday when Washington hosts Dallas and Seattle visits Phoenix. There's added wattage with Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne participating in the opening round.
It's the second year of the top eight teams reaching the playoffs, regardless of conference. The top two, Minnesota and Los Angeles, get byes until the semifinals. New York and Connecticut finished third and fourth, respectively, and wait for the winners of the opening round.
Here's a look at some other playoff tidbits:
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: For the second straight year, Seattle is playing on the road. The eighth-seeded Storm also opened the playoffs last year at Atlanta and lost that game. It's been one long road trip for the Storm since the team hosted the All-Star Game in late July. They've played 10 of their final 14 contests away from home and have traveled nearly 23,000 miles during that stretch. While Phoenix is hosting the game, the Mercury won't play on their home court because of a Marvel Live concert in the building. The game will be held at Arizona State.
TOP OF THE HEAP: Taurasi and Bird both moved into first place on WNBA career lists this season for points and assists, respectively. They starred together at UConn before joining the WNBA and played overseas in Russia and on the USA Basketball team, earning four Olympic gold medals. Taurasi said last month it was special playing with Bird at the All-Star Game this summer because she didn't know how many more times they'd be on the court together.
PLAYOFF NEWCOMERS: Neither Dallas nor Washington was in the postseason last year, so the league's single-elimination format is new to them. Most of the players and coaches weren't big fans of having their season come down to one game, but understand the rationale behind it.
''Ideally, a best-of-three would be what a coach would want, as so much can happen in one game,'' Mystics coach Mike Thibault said.
GETTING HEALTHY: For the first time in nearly a month, the Mystics have most of their team healthy. Tayler Hill is the only player definitely out for the playoff game Wednesday after she tore a knee ligament in July. Delle Donne missed eight games while recovering from a sprained right ankle and injured left thumb. With so many injuries, it was difficult for the Mystics to establish cohesiveness.
''Injuries more than anything else kept us from developing a rhythm on offense,'' Thibault said last month. ''When you have one person out you play a certain way and then when they come back, someone else would go down.''
DON'T COUNT THEM OUT: The Dallas Wings won both their games in Washington this season, rallying from deficits in the fourth quarter. The Wings have mastered the art of getting to the free-throw line, averaging a league-best 26.6 attempts. Points can be hard to come by in the playoffs and getting free ones at the line definitely helps.
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