Despite playing this season without some of the greatest talent in the history of the WNBA, both the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx are back in the playoffs.
They'll meet Wednesday night in Everett, Wash., when the host Storm begin defense of their WNBA title in this first-round, single-elimination contest.
Seattle did not have injured 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart (Achilles) and legend Sue Bird (knee) this season, while four-time champion Minnesota was minus superstar Maya Moore - who has taken a sabbatical from the game. However, the Storm and Lynx finished with identical 18-16 records. Seattle earned the No. 6 seed and home court in this game based on winning the season series 3-1 over seventh-place Minnesota.
In addition, the Storm also played the first portion of the season sans coach Dan Hughes, who was undergoing cancer treatment. The club also had to split its home games between suburban Everett and the University of Washington's arena while KeyArena undergoes restorations.
"We're thrilled to tip off our playoff run on our home court," Storm CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis told the club's official website. "In a season of unique challenges, the Storm community has rallied behind our team."
Even though the Lynx will open the playoffs on the road, where they went 7-10 and lost to Seattle twice by a combined 15 points, they won five of their final six overall. Minnesota also has three of the best in the sport this season in veteran center Sylvia Fowles (13.6 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game), Odyssey Sims (14.5 ppg, 5.4 assists per game) and Rookie of the Year candidate Napheesa Collier (13.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg).
Fowles, still playing at a high level in her 12th season, just signed a contract extension to essentially end her career with Minnesota.
"Obviously, we're ecstatic Sylvia Fowles wants to be a Lynx and finish her career here," coach Cheryl Reeve told the Lynx's official website. "She's been the, no pun intended, centerpiece to this team. And, it will be nice to have that going forward."
Natasha Howard (18.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) might not be at the level of Fowles just yet, but she's an All-Star and been Seattle's most consistent offensive threat. Teammate Jewell Loyd (12.3 ppg) has also had her moments in 2019 while point guard Jordin Canada (9.8 ppg, 5.2 apg) has filled in admirably for Bird.
Howard scored 33 during a 90-79 win at Minnesota on July 17. Sims, meanwhile, had 30 during the Lynx's 82-74 loss at Seattle in the teams' most recent meeting on Aug. 18.
This will be the first time Seattle and Minnesota meet in the playoff since the Lynx swept a semifinal series from the Storm in 2013.