ARLINGTON – Twenty-five years ago, head coach Vickie Johnson, then a player for the New York Liberty, opened the inaugural WNBA season with a win against the Los Angeles Sparks.
Twenty-five years later, in her inaugural season with the Dallas Wings, Johnson both opened and closed the regular season with a win against Los Angeles.
“It’s funny how God does things,” Johnson said before Dallas’ 87-84 win Sunday at College Park Center.
Now, Dallas is playoff-bound.
The 2021 WNBA Playoffs will begin Sept. 23 with two rounds of single elimination games for seeds five through eight. The top two seeds, Connecticut and Las Vegas, receive a bye to the semifinals (third round), and the third and fourth seeds receive a bye to the second round.
After the second round, matchups will follow a best-of-five format. Teams will be re-seeded after each round.
No. 7 Dallas will play No. 6 Chicago in the first round at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Wintrust Arena in a single-elimination game. Dallas was 2-1 against Chicago in the regular season.
Whether or not Dallas will play with a full roster in the playoffs comes into question.
“We don’t know how Satou is going to feel when she wakes up tomorrow,” Johnson said, adding that the health of the team is evaluated on a day-by-day basis. “If we have the whole team healthy, we will shorten the rotation.”
Heading into Sunday’s regular season finale, four Wings players were listed on its injury report: Bella Alarie (knee), Satou Sabally (Achilles) and Moriah Jefferson (hamstring) were listed as probable. Isabelle Harrison was listed as questionable in her first game back since recovering from COVID-19.
Harrison practiced for the first time Saturday, Johnson said, after being placed in the league’s health and safety protocols for about two weeks. Harrison said pre-game that she’s working on getting back into shape and is winded at times, but feels good overall.
Each of these players saw time in Sunday’s game, though Johnson limited them to under 25 minutes. Harrison went 7-7 with 14 points in her return behind 16 points and five assists from Marina Mabrey, and a team-leading 20 points from Arike Ogunbowale. Allisha Gray added 12 points and seven rebounds.
“I shocked myself,” Harrison said of her performance.
Three Sparks players scored in double digits. Guard Te’a Cooper scored a game-high 24 points followed by 22 points from guard Erica Wheeler and 18 points from Nneka Ogwumike.
Having started the season against Los Angeles, Johnson used this game as a way to evaluate the growth of the team.
In Dallas’ opener, the team was down Allisha Gray, Satou Sabally and rookie Awak Kuier. Gray and Sabally were competing in Olympic qualifiers while visa issues delayed Kuier’s WNBA debut.
This time around, with a full roster, Johnson noted that while the team made mistakes, it made limited mistakes.
“At the beginning of the year or midway through the season, we would have lost that game,” Johnson said. “We made shots and we got stops. That’s growth.”
Here are the eight WNBA playoff teams:
|2.||Las Vegas Aces|
|8.||New York Liberty|
Find more Wings coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.