Stewart breaks WNBA scoring record
MVP front-runner leads Liberty to seventh straight win
Breanna Stewart came to Brooklyn this past offseason with one purpose: helping the New York Liberty grab their first-ever WNBA championship.
Though the franchise’s chase for that thus-far elusive title won’t begin until the playoffs start kick off this month, the dynamic forward may have just wrapped up her second career WNBA Most Valuable Player award.
Stewart poured in 40 points and ripped down 10 rebounds en route to breaking the league’s all-time single-season scoring record Tuesday night in Dallas, lifting the red-hot Liberty to their season-high seventh straight win, 94-93, in front of 4,195 fans at College Park Center.
“To me she’s the MVP,” New York coach Sandy Brondello insisted of Stewart after she breezed past Diana Taurasi with her 861st point in the second quarter.
“She put 40 and 10 up today,” Brondello added. “But it’s not just the scoring and the rebounding. It’s the impact she has only every player on this team.”
With the game knotted at 93-93 and time winding down, Stewart snapped the deadlock with a free throw and secured a rebound on the other end after Dallas’ Satou Sabally misfired on a bank shot before the final buzzer.
A former two-time WNBA Finals MVP and the 2018 league MVP during her first six seasons in Seattle, Stewart shied away from taking too many plaudits for smashing the single-season scoring mark by 25 points with two games to play.
She pointed out that Diana Taurasi, the previous holder of the mark, achieved the feat in 34 contests. Stewart and the Liberty played in their 38th game Tuesday as the WNBA expanded to a 40-game regular season this year.
“The primary goal is that we make sure we win this game,” she noted. “Any time I’m in the same limelight as (Diana Taurasi) it’s amazing.”
Nothing has been more amazing in the league this year than Stewart’s dominance.
She already held the WNBA record for most 40-point games in a single year before doing it for the fourth time against against the playoff-bound Wings (20-18), who dropped their second straight game.
Stewart also tied the team record with her 20th double-double of the campaign on a night New York pulled within one game of league-leading and defending WNBA champion Las Vegas (32-6) for the top playoff seed.
“I think my mindset is the same going into every game,” she said. “We’re top-two (in the standings), we know that and we just want to keep getting better.”
Having finished off the road portion of their schedule, the Liberty will head home to the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush for their final two contests, hosting Los Angeles on Thursday before finishing up with Washington on Sunday.
The Aces will have a home-and-home with Phoenix this weekend.
Whether they finish first overall or not, the Liberty have already displayed their ability to outdo the Aces, going 3-2 against them this season, including a victory in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game at Michelob ULTRA Arena on Aug. 15.
Never shy about distributing credit for her success, Stewart thanked the rest of the team for her ongoing achievements this year.
“I wouldn’t be here without my teammates,” she said. “The way we have come together, really since May. They put me in position to succeed. When I’m hot, they just continue to give me that energy and I’m thankful for that.”
Her teammates are equally grateful.
“I think just seeing her go out there and give her all. She leads by example. She’s just the ultimate leader,” Betnijah Laney said of Stewart.
Laney scored 22 points and Courtney Vandersloot added 16 and 10 assists as the Liberty won for the 14th time in their last 15 games.
Brooklynites should get the “MVP!, MVP!” chants ready for Stewart when the Liberty return to Barclays Center this weekend.
And like Brondello, they should be thankful that she decided to travel nearly 3,000 miles in pursuit of her third WNBA title and second MVP trophy.
“I’m glad she’s wearing Liberty on her chest,” the coach gushed.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: Sabrina Ionescu, who missed Sunday’s win in Chicago due to a sore calf, returned to action vs. the Wings. She finished with five points on 1-of-5 shooting to go with three assists and a pair of rebounds in 25 minutes. … The Liberty may have a say in which team they play in the first round of the upcoming playoffs as the visiting Sparks are currently tied with Chicago for the eighth and final postseason spot. … Vandersloot, who ranks second all-time in assists and currently leads the league in that category, handed out her career best-tying 300th helper of the year Tuesday. .. Friday night’s game vs. L.A. will tip off at 7 p.m. in Brooklyn and can be watched on Prime Video.
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