The WNBA finally returned to Madison Square Garden on Monday afternoon, and Seattle's Breanna Stewart gave a performance worthy of "The Mecca" as the Storm defeated New York 96-80. After a strange ownership saga in the offseason, the Liberty were exiled from their longtime home and forced to play their home games at the Westchester County Center. But on this rare occasion, the Liberty returned to MSG for an afternoon matchup with the Seattle Storm, as thousands of camp kids packed "The World's Most Famous Arena" for an afternoon game.
And those kids were treated to not only a fun game, but yet another incredible performance from Stewart. One of the MVP frontrunners for the entire season, the do-it-all Storm forward may have locked up the award on Monday afternoon. It was a back-and-forth affair with over 20 lead changes, as the 7-21 Liberty put on one of their better performances of the season. That is, until Stewart decided to take over the game in the fourth quarter.
With just under eight minutes left in the game, Stewart checked in for Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with the Storm clinging to a 68-65 lead. From that point on, Seattle outscored New York 28-15 to pull away for a 96-80 victory that wasn't really indicative of how close this game was for most of the way. Of those final 28 points down the stretch, Stewart was directly responsible for 18 of them, scoring 12 and dishing out two assists for 3-pointers. In particular, her personal 7-2 run late in the frame slammed the door shut on the Liberty.
Stewart finished with 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists to record her fourth 30-point game in her last eight outings. Over that stretch, she's averaging 25 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting 50 percent from the field overall, and 51 percent from the 3-point line.
In what should come as little surprise, the Storm are 7-1 in those games, and are now 22-7. With a 3.5-game lead on the second-place Dream, they are closing in on locking up the No. 1 overall record, which would not only get them a bye to the semifinals of the playoffs, but homecourt advantage the entire way.
For Stewart, her clutch performance in the fourth quarter against the Liberty was yet another reminder that in just her third season in the league, she's already one of the most dominant players in the league. Few can take over a game like she did down the stretch.
Through 29 games now, Stewart is tied for the lead league in scoring at 22.8 points per game, checks in at fourth with 8.1 rebounds per game, and sits eighth in the league with 1.4 blocks a game. She's also ninth in the league in field goal percentage at 53.1 percent, an impressive mark considering only two players in the league attempt more shots than her per game.
She's leading the league in scoring, impacts the game on both ends and is the best player on the team with the best record in the league. Whatever criteria you want to use to determine MVP, Stewart is right there at the top of the list on all of them. And after showing out at MSG on Monday, it's going to be hard for anyone to catch her.