Las Vegas – They have been the leaders of the All-Star Game this season and one of them will be the MVP of the WNBA season when this award is announced on September 7. Aces” Aja Wilson and the Storm‘s Briana Stewart Both played brilliantly. But Wilson’s team finished 78-73 until they reached the best WNBA semi-final series with a score of 1-1.
“Obviously two great individual performances by the best players in the league,” aces coach Becky Hammon said afterwards.
Wilson scored 33 points and 13 rebounds. Stewart was 32 and 7. Each had three dead ends. This was only the third time in WNBA supplement history that two opposing players delivered a 30-point performance in a game. This was the first time two opponents had done this in addition to having at least three blocks.
Both were top of the nominees, Stewart in 2016 and Wilson in 2018. Stewart was the league’s best player in 2018 and Wilson in 2020. This year, that award will go down to the two again, just as it did in 2020, when they met In the WNBA Finals won by Storm.
In August, Stewart turned 28 and Wilson 26; They are not only some of the league’s brightest stars, they are also in the prime of their careers.
“That’s what grows the game,” Wilson said. “Everyone loves a good competition.” “Everyone likes to be like, ‘Oh, what’s going to happen here? “I think that’s what draws the fans and attention to us. When you look at the NBA, when you look at football, whatever, there’s always a good game that everyone sticks to no matter what.”
For Stewart, who came off 12 of 23 off the field and 5 of 5 off the foul streak, this was the eighth straight game in which she scored at least 20 points. She had 24 points in her first game win in Storm on Sunday.
Wilson went on 12 out of 18 off the field and 8 out of 11 off the streak in getting her career total points in a playoff. It’s also the second-highest total in franchise history in the playoffs, second only to 35 points scored by coach Hammon in 2008 when the team was based in San Antonio.
Wednesday’s game was Wilson’s response to the disappointing opener. She had eight points on Sunday, although she added 12 rebounds. Aces went with a smaller squad for much of Wednesday’s game to help open things up and give Wilson more room to work.
She and guide the guard Chelsea Gray Create a dynamic pick-and-roll mix, especially with Gray being perhaps the hottest post-season player. Gray has 19 points and seven assists Wednesday and shoots 66.7% from the field (65% from a 3-point range) in four ace playoffs. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, Gray captured 44% of Las Vegas’ 151 points in this series either by scoring or helping out.
“When you look at the great bouncers and the great flyers, the whole thing is you have to know how to guard it,” Wilson said of pick-and-roll. “You have to choose the poison. What are you going to do? Once we master it, it will be like Play-Doh in our hands at that point.”
There were also 18 points guard Kelsey Bloom I got the Aces, which contrasts with Storm in which only two players scored in double digits: Stewart and Tina Charleswith 17. guard Joel Lloydwho led Seattle with 26 points in Game One, finished eighth in Game Two.
“I think it’s just about her rhythm,” said Seattle coach Noel Quinn. “The first couple didn’t go in, and she has a tough defensive job. I think getting Jewell in her comfort places, getting her off the ball a little bit more – which is what we’re trying to do – and kind of make her go early.”
The series will go to Seattle for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday. The Al-Hos lost the semi-finals to Phoenix last year in five games. But under Hammon – who received the Coach of the Year award from NBA commissioner Kathy Engelbert ahead of Wednesday’s game – the Aces feel they have had more confidence and consistency this season. This was mentioned in game 2.
But the storm should also feel comfortable. As the No. 4 seed, they opened the series with a split on the road against the number one seed. This is usually the goal of the lowest seeded team in the playoff series. And they couldn’t ask for more from Stewart, who didn’t score from the 3-point range on Sunday, but scored three times on Wednesday.
“I think facing Aja, you have to respect everything she did and what she is capable of,” Stewart said. “It’s just a battle. What motivates you, what keeps you going, what makes you want to be better. It’s competitive.”
Gray said that even though she’s in the middle of the action herself, she still marvels at Wilson and Stewart.
“I watch it during the game,” Gray said. “I’m like,” Stewie just recorded; A’ja, what are you going to do? “Those matches, there’s a lot of interest in them, and there’s a lot of these players going through all that pressure to be in the spotlight. But it’s good for the fans, it’s good for the sport and it’s good for them. It raises their level of play. They are improving by challenging each other.”