Greatness Upon Greatness: A’ja Wilson vs Breanna Stewart
The WNBA is growing with impressive talent entering their prime and it’s giving fans fun intense matchups during the playoffs. What we witnessed in the semifinals between Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson was top-tier and gives fans optimism for more matchups in the future. Wilson and Stewart giving us superstar performances mean that the WNBA is in good hands as the league progresses.
Just imagine if LeBron James didn’t run into the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. If he were to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers as the Conference Champions, fans would have gotten a James-Kobe Bryant matchup in the NBA Finals. Luckily, Wilson and Stewart were able to take care of business in the first round. As the two stars led the charge in sweeping their series, there was a week's rest for both players to prepare for their head-to-head matchup.
Let me inform a few readers who may not keep up with the WNBA. A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart represent the WNBA as the top players in the league. Going into the 2022 WNBA season, Stewart was the most accomplished player with two championships and one WNBA MVP. Wilson, on the other hand, came into the season hungry for her first championship but won the MVP in 2020. Understanding what was at stake, both superstars have maximum effort in leading the way for their teams.
It’s safe to say that both Wilson and Stewart understood the importance of this series. The two superstars knew they had to be the focal point for their teams and set the tone early in each contest. Game one was the underachieving game for both players in their duel. But from Game two through Game four, both players provided historic performances from each side.
Wilson elevated her game significantly coming into the season. And her progress was displayed in the semifinals. Not only did she continue to elevate as a scorer but she also became a huge force on the defensive end with her protection. Having the task of defending Stewart, Wilson understood that the assignment was not going to be easy. But on many occasions, she got the best of Stewart in the defensive matchup.
Wilson’s best performance came in game three in Seattle. Understanding her team was heading into a hostile environment, Wilson came out aggressive early on the offensive end. Her offensive package was on full display as she dominated her matchups against both Stewart, Tina Charles, and others. Wilson scored 20 points in the first half on 8-12 shooting. She even continued her dominance in the second half as well.
Down the stretch of the fourth quarter, when the Aces needed their superstar the most she delivered. People can complain about a travelling violation if they want. But give credit to Wilson for making a go-ahead layup under pressure with seconds remaining. With Jackie Young making the game-tying layup as time expired, the Aces dominated overtime by outscoring the Storm 18-6. Wilson finished the game with 34 points and 11 rebounds while leading the Aces to a 2-1 series lead.
For Stewart, there was a lot that was on her plate heading into the series. On top of outshining her opponent, A’ja Wilson, there was also pressure for her to deliver a championship in Sue Bird’s final season. The two won two WNBA titles together in 2018 and 2020, the same year they swept the Aces. For many who believed Stewart was deserving of the MVP over Wilson, it was her job to make it out of this series on top.
It was a pleasure to watch the greatness of Breanna Stewart on full display in an elimination game. Stewart approached game four with the mindset to attack. With that being said, her shot-making and mobility allowed her to have an efficient first half with 26 points. While Stewart was in attack mode from the tip, the Aces were still in the game and eventually stole the momentum. Unfortunately, Las Vegas spoiled Stewart’s 42 points en route to their first Finals appearance in two years. The Storm were eliminated from the postseason after losing three straight games.
During the series, Breanna Stewart averaged 29.5 points along with 8.8 rebounds on 54 percent shooting. A’ja Wilson averaged 24.5 points along with 12.3 rebounds on 58 percent shooting. While the league has been dominated by frontcourt players the past few seasons, these are the two players who continue to lead the charge. Regardless if anyone agrees or not, this series determined who won the MVP award, although it’s supposed to be based on the regular season. While Wilson and the Aces came out of the series on top, she was awarded the 2022 MVP the next day.
This series showed the world that both A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart are going to continue to dominate for years to come. They both elevate their games every season and approach the season with a new mindset. Surely, this will not be the last time the two meet in the playoffs. Fans need to get ready for more playoff matchups between the two in the later future.
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