ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 5: Marina Mabrey #3 of the Dallas Wings drives to the basket during the game against the Connecticut Sun on July 5, 2022 at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images)

The race for the 2022 WNBA championship employs a new playoff format.

After six years of single-elimination games in the first and second rounds, multiple-game series will be played throughout the postseason. Opening rounds will be best-of-three with two games at home for the higher seed and a decisive Game 3 (if necessary) hosted by the lower seed. The semifinals and WNBA Finals will be best-of-five series with the higher seed hosting the first two games.

What hasn’t changed about the WNBA playoffs — the matchups are still very important.

Here are our first-round previews of Las Vegas Aces vs. Phoenix Mercury, Chicago Sky vs. New York Liberty and Seattle Storm vs. Washington Mystics. Below is the breakdown of Connecticut Sun vs. Dallas Wings, a series that begins Thursday in Uncasville, Conn.

Alisha Gray

Can Wings upset Sun in first round of WNBA playoffs?

(3) Connecticut Sun vs. (6) Dallas Wings
Date Game Time (TV)
Thu., Aug. 18 Game 1 at Connecticut 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU/NBATV)
Sun., Aug. 21 Game 2 at Connecticut Noon ET (ABC)
Wed., Aug. 24 Game 3 at Dallas (if necessary) TBD

Dallas enters this matchup as the lower seed but won two of the teams' three regular-season meetings this year. Connecticut finished the season strong by winning 11 of its last 14 games to secure the No. 3 seed.

The Wings will be without their leader and top scorer — Arike Ogunbowale (19.7 points per game), who’s out with an abdominal injury. But even with the All-Star guard sidelined, Dallas went 4-2 thanks to the efforts of guard Marina Mabrey (13.6 points) and center Teaira McCowan (11.0 points and 7.0 rebounds). Mabrey, who in those six games averaged 21.3 points and 4.7 assists and shot 49% from the field, including 44% on 3-pointers (16 for 36), can create shots for herself when the play falls apart.

"They're young and dynamic and can really score the basketball, probably score more points out of system or unassisted than anyone else in the league," Sun coach Curt Miller said of the Wings after Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Lynx.

McCowan also stepped up her game, notching six double-doubles in her last 10 contests. On Tuesday, the 6-foot-7 center was named Western Conference Player of the Month mostly due to her hot streak over three consecutive victories from August 2 to August 6 in which she averaged 19.3 points and 14.0 rebounds and shot 54.1% from the field.

Against the Sun, McCowan will need to produce similar numbers in addition to containing two of the league’s most dynamic post players in Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones.

Known as the Joneses, the All-Star forwards offer size and can score in a variety of ways. Brionna finished top-five in field-goal percentage (56.9), offensive rebounds (95), second-chance points and points in the paint. Jonquel, the 2021 WNBA MVP, averaged 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and can score with her back to the basket and beyond the 3-point line.

Just as dangerous are Connecticut guards Alyssa Thomas and Natisha Hiedeman. Both have the ability to shift the momentum of the game with one shot or defensive stop.

Prediction: Connecticut in 3

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