Elena Delle Donne has already led Chicago to its first postseason berth in franchise history.
Now the 6-foot-5 star will try and help the Eastern Conference’s top team keep the run going in the playoffs. Delle Donne, the overwhelming favorite to win rookie of the year, said she and her teammates are looking forward to the challenge
“It’s going to be a great experience,” she said. “We’re all very excited about it, we’re all going in it for the first time.”
Chicago will have a tough test in the opening round, facing defending WNBA champion Indiana. The Fever, beset by injuries all season, got back star Katie Douglas last week. She sat out 30 games with a bulging disc in her back.
Here’s a look at five other story lines for the WNBA playoffs that begin Thursday:
1. MOORE HUNGRY
Ever since losing to Indiana in the WNBA Finals last season, Maya Moore and her Minnesota teammates have been hungry to get back. The Lynx took their first step toward winning its second title in three seasons by clinching home-court advantage. The Lynx are 15-2 at home this season.
“Home court is huge,” Moore said. “Our fans are awesome and they really make it hard for teams to come in and beat us.”
Minnesota will open against Seattle (17-17), a team the Lynx swept during the regular season.
Mike Thibault was brought to Washington with hopes of turning around a struggling franchise. It took him one season to start the rebuilding process as the Mystics won 17 games — more than the previous two years combined.
The Mystics, who were 11-57 the previous two seasons combined, will face Atlanta in the opening round. The Dream is led by the league’s top scorer, Angel McCoughtry (22.0 points).
3. STORM TO THE FINISH
Tina Thompson hopes to have one last hurrah as her career comes to a close.
The four-time WNBA champion will be playing in her final playoffs as Seattle faces Minnesota. Thompson, who is the only player left from the inaugural WNBA class, will finish her career as the league’s all-time leading scorer (7,488) and second leading rebounder (3,070). She averaged 14.1 points and 5.8 rebounds to help Seattle make the playoffs without injured stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird.
“I want to go 12 more games,” she said, referring to the postseason.
4. MERCURY TRENDING
The Phoenix Mercury had high expectations with No. 1 pick Brittney Griner joining a talented group led by Diana Taurasi.
But the team struggled under coach Corey Gaines, who was fired in early August. The coaching change turned things around and the Mercury flourished under interim coach Russ Pennell, closing the season with nine wins in its final 13 games.
“We’re playing defense better. We’re stopping teams,” Griner said.
5. PARKER’S TITLE HUNT
Candace Parker has pretty much done it all in her basketball career. From NCAA championships, to Olympic gold medals and league MVPs, she has a stellar résumé.
Yet one thing is missing – a WNBA title. Parker hopes to change that when the Sparks open up the playoffs against Phoenix. The 27-year-old, who won MVP honors of the league’s All-Star Game in July, has a strong group around her led by Kristi Toliver.