The Seattle Storm made easy work of the Las Vegas Aces in Game 1 of the 2020 WNBA Finals on Friday night, leading by double digits for much of the way before securing a 93-80 win to take a 1-0 series lead. Remaining undefeated in the playoffs so far, the Storm are now just two wins away from their fourth title in franchise history.
Sue Bird made headlines for setting a new career-high and WNBA playoff record with 16 assists, while Jewell Loyd set a new playoff career-high with 28 points. But the real star for the Storm, as she has been since arriving in Seattle, was Breanna Stewart. The 2018 Finals MVP is on track to win that honor again after dropping 37 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks on 15 of 24 from the field.
That was not only a playoff career-high for Stewart, but the second most points ever scored in a Finals game. (Coincidentally, Aces forward Angel McCoughtry holds the record with 38, which she set back in 2011.) In addition, Stewart became the first player in Finals history to have 30-plus points and 15-plus rebounds.
It was a truly dominant performance from Stewart, and her versatility was on full display. Inside, outside, mid-range, on the break, you name it, Stewart was doing whatever she wanted. Not that many teams do, but the Aces have no one who can guard her, especially with Dearica Hamby out for the playoffs due to a knee injury.
Early on, Stewart was a menace on the break. Whether it was grabbing a rebound and going coast-to-coast by herself, or outrunning the Aces' bigs, Stewart got herself a bunch of easy baskets.
Stewart wasn't quite as sharp from 3-point land this summer as she was before her injury, but she still made 36.8 percent of her attempts in the regular season, which was good for 24th in the league. In Game 1, she was dialed in, shooting 5 of 8 from downtown for a season-high.
She has no problem making catch-and-shoot 3s, but what really separates her is her ability to knock them down off the screen. Being able to shoot on the move at her size is just unfair, and the Aces' bigs had no chance sticking with her on those actions.
Of course, at 6-4, Stewart has no problem scoring inside as well. In the regular season she shot 74.6 percent in the restricted area, and 59.4 percent inside eight feet. Once she gets near the basket, her size and athleticism make her almost impossible to defend, as the Aces found out first hand in this one.
She's agile enough to put the ball on the deck and finish around defenders at the rim, and big enough to shoot over opponents in the post. Both of those skills popped in Game 1.
Then, there's the defense. If she was just offensive-minded, Stewart would still be one of the best players in the league. She's a perennial MVP candidate because she also gets it done on the other side of the ball. In the regular season, Stewart averaged 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, and was one of just five players to put up at least a steal and a block. For her efforts, she earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team.
In Game 1, she finished with four blocks, which set a new career-high. During one possession in the fourth quarter, she used her length to get out and block A'ja Wilson's stepback jumper, something that doesn't happen too often.
All told, this was pretty much a perfect game from Stewart. She scored all over the court, made plays on defense and only turned it over once. Wilson was the MVP, and deservedly so, but in Game 1, Stewart reminded everyone that she has just as much claim to the title of best player in the world.