How Did Stewart Light Up The Wings?
By Tyler Berry
To say that Seattle’s Breanna Stewart has played well against the Dallas Wings in 2018 would be an understatement. In two June matchups with Dallas, Stewart posted 28 points (both on 10-of-15 shooting) in each of them, along with seven rebounds on June 2 and 12 rebounds on the June 24. The Wings had almost no answer for her on the defensive end in either matchup and that trend continued over the weekend, when they met the Storm once again in Seattle.
In a 91-84 win for Seattle, Stewie was predictably brilliant. Over 35 minutes, she posted a season-high 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for her third consecutive double-double performance. She provided the Storm with a complete game, capitalizing on nearly every opportunity Dallas gave her. Let’s look at how she pulled off yet another MVP-caliber performance.
When you look at a performance like this one, it’s easy to see why she leads the WNBA in scoring at 22.5 points per game. At 6-foot-4 (and a 7-foot wingspan), she’s tall enough to shoot over almost any defender, but athletic enough to drive right by them as well. You also can’t leave her open from the three-point line, because she’ll make you pay. Even though her percentage is down this year (33.7 percent), Stewie can hit them when it matters most.
Saturday night was her 15th 20-plus-point game – and second 30-plus game – of the year. She was also just three points shy of her career high, a mark she set back in 2016. This was a phenomenal offensive performance for her, one that Seattle needed in order to take down a very tough Wings squad.
Like most superstars, Stewart took over the game when it mattered most. With point guard Sue Bird suffering from an illness all game – and missing about nine minutes of action from the middle of the second quarter to the 5:30 mark of the third – and Jewell Loyd struggling to get anything going from the field, it was crucial for Stewart to make things happen offensively. She did that, and more. Between shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 3-for-6 from behind the arc, she found multiple ways to score, even without much success in the pick-and roll.
On multiple possessions, Stewart found shots in the midrange and at the basket through smart off-ball cuts. She utilized her high basketball IQ and vision to find open space to receive entry passes and knock down shots. And when she wasn’t knocking them down? She was fearlessly driving through the defense and drawing fouls, finishing 8-of-10 from the line.
Temperament wise, there couldn’t be two more opposite players than Stewart and Dallas’ Liz Cambage, something that was extremely evident while on the court together. Cambage picked up another technical foul in this game, her third in the past two games. While it was a bad call, one clearly based off of her reputation, it still hurt her team. The technical happened late in the fourth quarter and it ultimately killed the Wings’ momentum. On the other side, Stewart was stalwart, calm in her demeanor, and had ice in her veins. Some might confuse her calmness for a lack of resilience, but don’t be fooled. She’s as resilient as they come.
That showed throughout the game, as it does most nights, but there was a particular sequence in the final two minutes that brilliantly illustrated it. With Seattle up by one, Stewart made an ill-advised pass that led to an easy break for Dallas to capture the lead. Back down the floor, Stewart got a wide-open look from three that rattled in and out but was kept alive by Natasha Howard. After a reset offensively, Stewart got the ball in the corner and made a strong drive to the basket, scoring near the rim to take back the lead while also drawing a foul. Despite missing the and-one opportunity, Seattle wouldn’t relinquish the lead again.The mark of an MVP-level player is the ability to shake off those mistakes and unforced errors quickly, making sure that resulting emotions don’t hurt your team the next time down the floor. Even after her intercepted pass and her three-pointer that was halfway down, Stewart got another opportunity and capitalized. If that doesn’t show resilience, I don’t know what does.
During Stewart’s on-court interview after the game, chants of “MVP!” filled Seattle’s KeyArena. A few more performances like this one and there’s a good chance she could have that particular trophy (and maybe another important one) on her mantle in the near future.