Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne
- The Seattle Storm take on the Washington Mystics (-3) in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.
- The Washington Mystics face elimination after losing the first two games of the series.
- Avoiding a sweep in the WNBA playoffs comes down to being favored, based on historical betting data.
WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart scored a game-high 25 points as the Seattle Storm edged out the Washington Mystics, 75-73, on Sunday. The win gave the Storm a 2-0 lead in the WNBA Finals.
The series heads to Washington for Game 3 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET). Since the WNBA went to a best-of-five format in the championship round in 2005, no team has forced a Game 5 after losing the first two games.
History is not on the Mystics’ side to win the WNBA championship, and neither are betting odds. Seattle is -1525 to win the franchise’s third title. Washington is +850, a 10.5% implied probability of winning in five games.
The Mystics are longshots to win the WNBA title, but can Washington avoid a sweep?
To answer that question, I pulled every WNBA playoff game since 2005 from the Bet Labs database and looked at how teams performed in elimination games, ignoring winner-take-all showdowns.
In that span, there were 85 elimination games. The team facing elimination has gone 40-45 straight-up and 38-44-3 against the spread (ATS). It is not surprising that teams with their backs against the wall would have a losing record since they are facing elimination for a reason.
However, there is a big difference between favorites and underdogs trying to extend their seasons. Favorites in elimination games are 28-15 (65%) straight-up and 20-23 ATS while underdogs are 12-30 (29%) straight-up and 18-21-3 ATS.
The good news for Mystics fans? Washington is listed as a 3-point favorite in Game 3. This doesn’t guarantee a victory, but being favored is a better predictor of winning.
Unfortunately for bettors, favorites and underdogs facing elimination have covered (or failed to cover) at similar rates. Though the win rate is not enough for me to blindly take Seattle plus the points.