By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — A’ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces will have homecourt advantage throughout the WNBA playoffs — a place they only lost once during the regular season.
The defending champions wrapped up the top seed in the postseason before they even stepped on the court Sunday by virtue of New York’s last-second loss to Washington. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Liberty won that game because the Aces beat Phoenix to finish the regular season 34-6.
“If you had said 34-6 to me back in May, I would have jumped at that in a second,” Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon said. “And here we are. The amount of energy and effort they put into being professionals, their approach to the game — they were so good.”
Las Vegas will open up the best-of-three first round series Wednesday night against eighth-seeded Chicago, which enters the postseason for a fifth straight year.
The other half of Las Vegas’ bracket features fourth-seeded Dallas against No. 5 Atlanta. The Dream ended up in a three-way tie with Minnesota and Washington in the standings, but earned the fifth-seed through tiebreakers. The Wings-Dream matchup begins Friday night.
The Lynx will play at Connecticut on Wednesday night to open up that series.
The second-seeded Liberty play Washington on Friday night. The two teams played a thriller to conclude the regular season on Sunday that ended when Brittney Sykes put in a lob at the buzzer to lift the Mystics to a 90-88 win.
“We wanted to send a message that you are going to have to see us all series long,” Mystics guard Natasha Cloud said. “Regardless of the injuries, regardless of whatever — you’ve got to go through a really good team still and a team that’s hungry, a team full of dogs. … So we just wanted to make ourselves known and let it be known that this is going to be a really good series.”
The playoff format for the second consecutive year will have the better-seeded team hosting the first two games with a decisive third game on the lower seeds court if necessary. The games are more spread out with four days between the first two contests of each matchup. Last season only had three days between games.
Seattle, Phoenix, Indiana and Los Angeles missed the playoffs.
___ AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball