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Stewart flashes MVP form in Chicago

Liberty forward scores 33 points in 88-75 win over Sky

June 5, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Breanna Stewart posted season highs in points and rebounds Tuesday as the Liberty pulled out a tough win in Chicago.
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By her own admission, reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Breanna Stewart hadn’t been going after it this season the way she had in 2023.

Even though the Liberty are off to their best start since their inaugural season.

“I want to be aggressive. From the start of the season until now, I probably wasn’t as aggressive as I wanted to be,” Stewart readily ceded.

She didn’t hold back at all in Chicago Tuesday night, restarting her bid for a third career MVP award with a virtuoso performance that helped New York tough out an 88-75 win over the Sky in front of 8,277 fans at Wintrust Arena.

Stewart, who was already New York’s top scorer and rebounder heading into the Windy City, had reached 20 points in only one of her previous five contests, hardly the output that helped her set the league’s all-time single-season scoring record a year ago.

But the two-time WNBA Finals MVP as a member of the Seattle Storm amassed season highs of 33 points and 14 rebounds while handing out three assists and picking up a steal and a blocked shot in the Liberty’s season high-tying fourth straight win.

“I was getting great looks when I was getting downhill,” said Stewart, who went 14-of-25 from the field and drained a pair of 3-pointers.

“(I was) doing whatever I had to do to get the game to the next level,” she added. “The rest of the team, obviously we really picked it up.”

Newly crowned Eastern Conference Player of the Week Sabrina Ionescu wasn’t far behind her fellow All-Star, contributing 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists to go with two steals and a block.

“I was finding success getting in the paint and that softened up the defense,” she said after going 4-of-10 from beyond the arc to match the franchise record for consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer made at 35.

Sabrina Ionescu celebrated her Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor with 24 points in New York’s win over the Sky. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton added 14 points and Jonquel Jones finished with five points, 12 boards and four assists for New York, which kicked off its three-game road trip by avenging a 90-81 loss to Chicago at Barclays Center on May 23.

In a game that featured a whopping 39 personal fouls and rough play throughout, the Liberty (8-2) found themselves down 66-65 entering the final quarter.

Jones, who struggled through foul trouble en route to her second-lowest offensive output of the season, scored off a pass from Ionescu in the post to put New York in front to stay, sparking a 15-2 burst.

Stewart and Laney-Hamilton followed with successive layups and both hit jumpers as the run continued, stretching the advantage to 75-66.

After a pair of free throws by Chicago rookie Angel Reese, Ionescu drilled a 25-footer and Jones went to the hole for two more to give New York an 80-68 cushion.

“We all know that JJ is a scorer,” said Stewart of her fellow forward.

“Through the foul trouble … she continued to be a force for us, defensively and then offensively finding one another. She’s looking for me a lot, especially in transition.”

Reese, the seventh overall pick in this year’s WNBA Draft, finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds before getting ejected with 2:31 to play.

Chennedy Carter scored 16 points off the bench and Marina Mabrey added 15 for Chicago (3-5), which was outscored 23-9 over the final 10 minutes once Brooklyn’s “Superteam” kicked into a higher gear.

“It was good to keep them to nine points (in the fourth quarter),” said Liberty coach Sandy Brondello. “(We) stayed more composed and poised. I wasn’t getting too frustrated. … I thought we stayed in the moment.”

New York, which also won eight of its first 10 games to start the 1997 season, will continue its trip Thursday night in Atlanta at 7:30 p.m.

Chicago rookie Angel Reese got ejected in the fourth quarter Tuesday after the Liberty took command in the final period. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

GIVE ME LIBERTY: The reigning Commissioner’s Cup champion Liberty are off to a 2-0 start in their quest to become the first repeat winners of the league’s annual in-season tournament. Their plus-49 point differential puts them atop the WNBA table thus far. … Stewart put up at least 30 points for the 25th time in her career, passing Maya Moore for fourth place in league history in that category. … Future Hall of Fame point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who spent her first 12 seasons in Chicago, had a game-high six assists against her former team. … Laney-Hamilton had five assists Tuesday, including the 500th of her career. … After visiting the Dream (4-3) in Atlanta Thursday, the Liberty will head to unbeaten Connecticut (9-0) for their first meeting against the team they beat to get to the Finals last year.

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