2021 WNBA Finals: What You Need to Know

Overview2020 WNBA FinalsFinals History

WNBA Finals Overview

The Chicago Sky (No 5.) won the 2021 WNBA Finals becoming the champions for the first time in franchise history! So today, we take look at how we got to this point from the start of the Playoffs. We’ll also explore what the 2016 change to the playoffs format means, the Championship odds, and reveal awesome WNBA Finals history highlights.

Early in the 2021 season, ESPN pegged Seattle Storm and the Las Vegas Aces to be in the finals this year, with Ryan Ruocco predicting Seattle as the champs, and LaChina Robinson, Mechelle Voepel, Kelly Cohen, and more, siding with Las Vegas. Meanwhile FiveThirtyEight had the Connecticut Sun pegged to win it by 55% as of September 16th. And Sports Illustrated‘s roundtable called the Sun as well (over the Aces). Turns out, they all got it wrong. ESPN‘s expert roundtable is now predicting Chicago over Phoenix.

The Connecticut Sun, the Las Vegas Aces, the Seattle Storm, the Phoenix Mercury, the Minnesota Lynx, the Chicago Sky, the Dallas Wings, and the New York Liberty (their first time in the playoffs since 2017) each clinched a 2021 Playoffs spot. The Wings and the Liberty were eliminated in Round One. Minnesota and Seattle were both pushing to make this their fifth WNBA championship, but the Storm and the Lynx were eliminated in Round Two.

In the Semifinals best-of-five-series, Chicago bested Connecticut (3-1), and is headed to the Championship for the first time since 2014! After posting the best single-season winning percentage in franchise history (.813), the Sun had been seeking to win its first WNBA championship, led by MVP candidate Jonquel Jones.

Meanwhile Phoenix beat Las Vegas in their Semifinals series (3-2), despite a Kia Nurse ACL injury and Sophie Cunningham’s calf strain. That meant the Las Vegas revenge tour – after reaching the WNBA Finals last season before losing to Seattle in a three-game sweep – led by 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson and reigning Western Conference Player of the Month Kelsey Plum ended early.

In the first game of the Finals series, Chicago took a 1-0 series lead beating Phoenix 91-77 with a dynamic performance from Kahleah Copper, in their first-ever WNBA Finals victory in franchise history. In the second game, Phoenix tied up the series 1-1 with a win over Chicago 91-86 in overtime. Then, Chicago and Phoenix met on Friday, October 15th and the Sky took the lead (2-1) in an easy 86-50 win. On Sunday, October 17th, the Sky beat Phoenix (80-74) becoming WNBA Champions (3-1) for the first time in their franchise history.

Who won the WNBA Championship 2021?

The Chicago Sky won the 2021 WNBA Championship, beating the Phoenix Mercury (3-1) in the Finals series.

All the more impressive because Chicago was not in the top two seeds coming into the playoffs ranked number five. Since the WNBA began its current playoff format in 2016, nine of the 10 Finals teams were top-two seeds. There are a few reasons why, Her Hoops Stats reports:

  1. First, the two teams at the top of the regular season standings are generally the best teams in the league.
  2. Second, the teams are guaranteed home-court advantage until the Finals (though, the home-court advantage is significantly less of a factor this season).
  3. Third, and most importantly, the teams receive a double bye into the semifinals and avoid the chaotic two rounds of single-elimination basketball. 

Heading into the Finals requires a different mentality from players, and Breanna Stewart shared her advice at conclusion of the 2021 season during The W25 press conference:

“Advice for players in their first WNBA Finals is enjoy the moment and make sure you leave everything out on the court. You’ve gotten through the ups and downs, the good and the bad this season, for this moment. It’s something where it’s not one game. So, it needs to be repeated over a series of five or the winner of three.”

“Enjoy it. When I look back at 2018, especially because we had fans, 2020 in the bubble — and Sue [Bird] says it all the time, you never know when you’re going to get back. So, don’t overlook or overthink or miss your opportunity.”

2021 WNBA Champions

Just two years ago, on the cusp of going to the WNBA championship with just seconds remaining, Courtney Vandersloot threw an errant pass that was intercepted. Then at the last second, a ridiculously wild, off-balance, half-court shot actually went in, ending the Sky’s chances. Heartbreak doesn’t come any tougher than that, reports Daily Harold.

This year was redemption year, and Chicago Sky are the WNBA Champions. And yes, WNBA players do get rings.

2021 WNBA Finals MVP

Forward Kahleah Copper was named WNBA Finals MVP after helping lead the Chicago Sky to their first title. Kahleah averaged 17.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as the Sky defeated the Phoenix Mercury in the best-of-five championship series (3-1).

Kahleah came to the team as the “third wheel” in the trade from the Washington Mystics for Elena Delle Donne in 2017. She put her head to the grindstone and kept working, and slowly but surely she chipped away at more minutes and more playing time. Finally in 2020, she became a big scoring threat earning her a breakout season. This year, she delivered more of the same and took another step up to Finals MVP.

Kahleah’s first step is straight-up lethal, and Finals opponent and former teammate Kia Vaughn described it as not just quick but also aggressive. It’s almost unguardable because it’s not a step but rather a long stride, reports Bleacher Report. “She’s been a hard matchup for everybody this year,” Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said when asked about Kahleah post game.

It’s not just her offense where she shines. “I think it’s huge for her to have the games that she’s had and then also be tasked with defending Diana,” Candace Parker said on how Kahleah has fueled the defense. “I think sometimes those contributions on that end of the court get overlooked, and I think we depend on her athleticism.”

WNBA Finals trophy

Chicago Sky brought home its first WNBA championship trophy. “It feels amazing,” Candace Parker said. “Look at the city, man. They all showed up.” Here’s how the WNBA Finals trophy looks:

When are the 2021 WNBA Finals?

The 2021 WNBA Finals began on Oct 10, 2021. The last Finals game was Oct 17, 2021.

2021 WNBA Finals schedule

The first game of the Finals, with Chicago at Phoenix, was played Sunday, October 10th at 3PM EST on ABC. The last game was played on October 17th, 2021, where the Chicago Sky became champions, winning the series 3-1. Here’s the 2021 WNBA Finals TV schedule:

WNBA Finals 2021 TV schedule how to watch

How to watch 2021 WNBA Finals Game 4 today live stream: Phoenix Mercury vs. Chicago Sky

Sunday, Oct. 17, 3PM EST. | TV: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV, ESPN.com, ESPN app | Watch the game recording: League Pass

How to watch the 2021 WNBA Finals Championship

All 19 WNBA playoff games will be broadcast on either ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2. To watch the 2021 WNBA semifinals online, you can stream every game at ESPN.com or on the ESPN app, or on the ABC live website. You can also see all the games online after they’re over by watching the recordings on WNBA League Pass. See more information on how to watch WNBA games here.

WNBA Finals 2021 location

The first two games of the WNBA Finals 2021 will be played at Phoenix (at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix). The next two will be played at Chicago (at Wintrust Arena located at the corner of Cermak Road and Indiana Avenue). Because of the tight turn around, the WNBA will pay for charter flights for the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury to travel to Chicago between Games 2 and 3 of the WNBA Finals. The final Finals game will be played back at Phoenix.

WNBA Finals 2021 results

First Round (Single Elimination)

  • Thursday, September 23: Chicago beat Dallas (81-64)
  • Thursday, September 23: Phoenix beat New York (83-82)

Second Round Results (Single Elimination)

  • Sunday, September 26: Phoenix beat Seattle (85-80)
  • Sunday, September 26: Chicago beat Minnesota (89-76)

Semifinals Results (Best of 5 Series)

  • Tuesday, September 28: Chicago beat Connecticut (101-95)
  • Tuesday, September 28: Las Vegas beat Phoenix (96-90)
  • Thursday, September 30: Connecticut beat Chicago (79-68)
  • Thursday, September 30: Phoenix beat Las Vegas (117-91)
  • Sunday, October 3: Chicago beat Connecticut (86-83)
  • Sunday, October 3: Phoenix beat Las Vegas (87-60)
  • Wednesday, October 6: Chicago beat Connecticut (79-69)
  • Wednesday, October 6: Las Vegas beat Phoenix (93-76)
  • Friday, October 8: Phoenix beat Las Vegas (87-84)

Finals (Best of 5 Series)

  • Sunday, October 10: Chicago beat Phoenix (91-77)
  • Wednesday, October 13: Phoenix beat Chicago (91-86)
  • Friday, October 15: Chicago beat Phoenix (86-50)
  • Sunday, October 17: Chicago beat Phoenix (80-74)

2021 WNBA Finals results and news

Game 1 2021 WNBA Finals:

In game one of the 2021 WNBA Finals, Chicago beat Phoenix 91-77. The game saw just one lead change and one tie, while the visiting Sky led by as many as 23 in the contest. Kahleah Copper led the Sky with 21 points on 53.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep, and also secured 10 rebounds. Allie Quigley scored 18 points and Candace Parker had 16.

“Every game is important, and getting the first one automatically gives you an advantage,” Sky coach and general manager James Wade said. “You never know how the games are going to go, but who would have thought 2½ weeks ago we would have had home-court advantage in the finals. (The team is) locked in, focused and concentrated.”

Meanwhile, Phoenix was feeling the quick turn around from the Semifinals: “I don’t want to make excuses, but we were fatigued,” Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello said. Brittney Griner finished the contest with a team-high 20 points, shot a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line, and added six rebounds and three assists. Diana Taurasi tallied 17 points on 50.0% (5-10) shooting from the field and five rebounds.

Game 2 2021 WNBA Finals:

In game two, Phoenix beat Chicago 91-86 in overtime, and had four players in double figures. Britney Griner showed out with 29 points including a dunk. Skylar Diggins-Smith added a cool 13 points and found luck facilitating with 12 assists, and 7 rebounds. “I was just trying to make something happen,” Skylar said. “I felt really good about how I was able to get a head of steam, get downhill, get in a lane, create opportunities for my team. It didn’t fall for me, but I was just trying to do other things … and find that edge, that rhythm within the game.”

Brianna Turner continued to impact the game with her defense and offensive finishing: “Breezy’s a problem. What she does for us doesn’t show up on [the box score], but we’re all here because of her. And we all know that…She got us here with her uncanny ability to affect the game without the ball is second to none.” said Diana Taurasi.

Chicago put up a fight, and even earned more points in the paint (while getting just 4 free throw attempts). Courtney Vandersloot had a crafty 20 points (including this game tying 2 point crossover drive) and Allie Quigley wasn’t far behind with 19. Kahleah Copper knocked down a strong 15 points and 10 rebounds, too.

Game 3 WNBA Finals:

In game three, Chicago took back over the series pulling ahead 2-1. The Chicago Sky won 86-50. Kahleah Copper led the way with 22 points (with 20 in the first half alone) and Candace Parker contributed 13. The bright spot for Phoenix was Brittney Griner with 16 points.

“She just does a great job of making sure everyone’s in the right spot, of controlling the tempo, getting people the ball at the right place at the right time,” Diana Taurasi said of Courtney Vandersloot. “There’s no one better right now in our game at doing that. Then you throw in her improved shooting … she’s a handful.”

Game 4 WNBA Finals:

In game four, Kahleah Copper got limited touches in the first half with Skylar Diggins-Smith guarding her. Late in the third quarter, the Mercury held a 14-point lead.

Then, Candace Parker knocked in a three from the top of the key. The next play down the court Courtney Vandersloot picked Skylar Diggins Smith’s pocket, passed the ball up the court to Candace for a transition layup cutting the Mercury’s lead to single digits. Allie Quigley opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-point baskets, bringing the Sky within five of the Mercury. The fourth-quarter Sky run continued, and they sealed the deal, becoming 2021 WNBA Champions, for the first time ever in franchise history.

So how do the WNBA Finals work?

The WNBA Finals are the championship series of the Women’s National Basketball Association. The series is the end of the league’s postseason schedule each fall, and has been played every WNBA season in history since 1997. Though, the series was named the WNBA Championship until 2002.

The winner of the WNBA Finals is determined through a 2–2–1 format. The first, second, and fifth games of the series are played at the arena of the team who earned home court advantage by having the better record during the regular season.

2021 WNBA Finals Championship odds tracking

During the 2021 WNBA season championship odds have evolved. Initially, the defending champion Seattle Storm (+175) opened as the favorites to win again at most books, with last year’s runners-up the Las Vegas Aces (+400) placed just behind them.

As of the Olympic break, the teams whose odds had increased the most include the Aces, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings, Minnesota Lynx, and New York Liberty. And the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks have taken the biggest tumbles in the odds, but, as Her Hoops Stats shares: the Storm have been an under-the-radar addition to this group as well. Explore the ways WNBA Championship probabilities have fluctuated so far.

It’s fairly common for one the top two teams seeded in the WNBA playoffs to win. DraftKings had the Aces as the favorite in August. Though, Kevin Pelton thought the outlook looked brightest for the Sun. As of September 20th, the Sun are now the consensus favorites at all books offering odds. And the Connecticut Sun have not lost a game since August 12th. For more on the best odds, see the latest WNBA Championship odds tracker.

See WNBA Finals interesting facts

  • The number one seed has reached the WNBA Finals in each of the last 4 years, winning 3 times.
  • Western Conference teams have won 10 of the most recent 12 WNBA championships.
  • Only 4 Eastern Conference teams have won the WNBA Championship since 1997.
  • The Houston Comets, the Seattle Storm, and the Minnesota Lynx are the only teams to each win 4 championships.
  • Discover more WNBA facts here.

Explore WNBA Finals history

Discover the most interesting aspects of each finals matchup from 2020 through the very first 1997 including the biggest upsets, the longest series, and cool highlights. For example, did you know 2011 was the start of the Lynx dynasty?

2020 WNBA Finals

These Finals were unlike any other before. The series occurred in the Wubble in Florida due to a global pandemic. It also resulted in the Seattle Storm tying the Houston Comets and Minnesota Lynx in most WNBA championships at four

Which WNBA teams were in the finals in 2020?

The 2020 WNBA finals took place in the Wubble in Bradenton Florida. The Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm made it to the Finals.

Who won the WNBA Championship in 2020?

The Seattle Storm won in a three game sweep. The Seattle Storm won their second WNBA championship in three seasons, taking down the Las Vegas Aces 92-59. It’s the fourth title in franchise history for the Storm, who also won in 2004, 2010, and 2018. Seattle’s core group that won the 2018 championship led by Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and Jewell Loyd remained intact for the 2020 season. As a result, the Storm joined Minnesota and Houston as the only franchises to win four championships.

Who was the WNBA Finals MVP in 2020?

Breanna Stewart was the Finals MVP averaging 28.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. She had an incredible game 1 where scored a whopping 37 points and grabbed 15 boards. 

What were the 2020 WNBA Finals TV ratings?

Despite most sports viewership suffering due to the pandemic, the WNBA was able to gain viewers in 2020. The Aces vs Storm three-game series averaged 440,000 viewers, up 15 percent from 2019’s WNBA Finals viewership of 381,000.

ESPN‘s coverage of the Seattle Storm’s 92-59 title-clinching victory over the Las Vegas Aces in game three drew an average 570,000 viewers, the US broadcaster has confirmed.

2019 WNBA Finals

The 2019 Finals was played by the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun. It resulted in the Mystics winning in five games, and winning their first WNBA championship. 

2018

In 2018, the Seattle Storm swept the Washington Mystics 3-0. They won in dominant fashion winning by double digits in two of the three games. 

2017

The 2017 WNBA Finals was a five game classic. It was a rematch of the 2016 Finals, resulting in the Minnesota Lynx defeating the Los Angeles Sparks and avenging their 2016 loss. 

2016

The first Minnesota Lynx versus LA Sparks Finals matchup took place in 2016 and ended with the LA Sparks winning their third title. This was Candace Parker’s first championship and she won Finals MVP. 

2015

The Minnesota Lynx won the 2015 championship against the Indiana Fever. The series went the distance ending in five games and Sylvia Fowles won the Finals MVP.

2014

The Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky participated in the WNBA Finals in 2014. It was the first appearance Chicago Sky had in the WNBA Finals and they lost to the Mercury in a three game sweep. 

2013

The Minnesota Lynx won in a sweep against the Atlanta Dream winning their second WNBA championship in dominant fashion. Maya Moore was named the MVP.  

2012

The Indiana Fever defeated the Minnesota Lynx dynasty in four games to win their first and only WNBA championship. It was only the second time an Eastern Conference team won a championship at the time. 

2011

The Minnesota Lynx swept the Atlanta Dream to win their first championship and began the Lynx Dynasty. The Lynx dominated the Dream not just in the Finals, but in the regular season going 2-0 in regular season play and winning all five games they had against the Dream in 2011. 

2010

The Seattle Storm swept the Atlanta Dream to win their second WNBA title. This was the first heartbreaking defeat for the Dream in the WNBA Finals. 

2009

Diana Taurasi won her second championship and her first Finals MVP when the Phoenix Mercury defeated the Indiana fever 3-2. The matchup was between the top two teams during the regular season so it was nice that both top teams got to play each other in the Finals. 

2008

The Detroit Shock swept the San Antonio Stars winning their third WNBA championship. They did so in dominant fashion beating the Stars by 16 in game three. 

2007

Phoenix Mercury defeated the Detroit Shock in 2007 in five games. The game was the first time a road team won the championship on the opponent’s floor. 

2006

The Detroit Shock defeated the Sacramento Monarchs in five games to win their second title. The MVP was Deanna Nolan thanks to her 24 point performance in game five. 

2005 WNBA Finals

In 2005 the Sacramento Monarchs won their first and only WNBA title against the Connecticut Sun. The Monarchs won in four games.

2004

Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun both made their first Finals appearances. The Storm won the series winning two out of the three games. It was the last time the WNBA Finals was a best of three series. 

2003

The Detroit/LA rivalry began in the WNBA with this 2003 WNBA Final. The Shock won in the deciding game three match winning their first WNBA title. 

2002

The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the New York Liberty to win their second WNBA title. It was also the last time a team has won back to back titles.

2001

LA Sparks secured their first WNBA title in 2001 against the Charlotte Sting. The Sparks won in dominant fashion sweeping the Sting. 

2000

The Houston Comets dynasty secures their fourth and final title against the New York Liberty. The Comets are by far the most dominant WNBA team in the history of the W. At this point in WNBA history, no one else has won a championship except the Comets!

1999

Houston Comets and the New York Liberty faced off in the Finals for the second time ever in 199. Their first matchup was in 97. The results were the same as the Houston Comets won their third title and officially became a dynasty. 

 1998

The Cheryl Miller-coached Phoenix Mercury reached the WNBA Finals and faced the Houston Comets in1998. The result was another Comets championship with Cynthia Cooper being named Finals MVP.

1997 WNBA Finals

The very first WNBA championship was played by the Houston Comets and the New York Liberty. It resulted in the Houston Comets beating the Liberty 65-51. It was the beginning of the WNBA and the start of the Houston Comets dynasty.

Enjoy the WNBA Finals 2021

There it is, a complete history of every matchup! 25 years later, the league is more popular than ever and just getting started. Learn even more about WNBA history and the WNBA’s 25th season, as well as WNBA MVPs.

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