How A’ja Wilson won WNBA Finals battle vs. Breanna Stewart

Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson Aces shoots a 3-pointer over New York’s Breanna Stewart during Game 2 of the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson emerges as the victor in the clash of MVPs during the intense 2023 WNBA Finals against her rival and counterpart, Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty. Wilson’s exceptional performance not only secured her team’s victory but also earned her the prestigious Finals MVP award, providing solace for her loss to Stewart in the regular-season MVP voting.

Many argue that Wilson should have been the rightful recipient of the 2023 WNBA MVP award, a sentiment shared by her head coach, Becky Hammon. Hammon, who openly criticized the snub, firmly believes that Wilson’s outstanding contributions set her apart throughout the championship series, ultimately leading the Aces to a 3-1 triumph over the Liberty.

Demonstrating her dominance in the 2023 playoffs, Wilson averaged an impressive 23.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, surpassing her counterpart from the New York Liberty. Stewart, on the other hand, averaged 18.4 points and 10.2 rebounds, struggling with a 35.8% shooting percentage from the field across 10 postseason matchups.

While Stewart showcased a 42.1% shooting accuracy in Game 1 against the Aces, her performance dwindled in Game 2, where she was limited to a 35.3% shooting success rate. In the conclusive game of the series, Stewart’s field goal percentage plummeted to 17.6%, resulting in a mere 10 points. This subpar performance was far from ideal for the Liberty, and Stewart’s difficulties extended to her 3-point shooting as well, with only a 19.6% conversion rate compared to her 35.5% accomplishment in the regular season. She managed to sink a mere nine 3-pointers out of 46 attempts throughout the playoffs.

Despite the final disappointment, a pivotal moment in the series occurred when New York entrusted Stewart with the potentially game-winning shot. Unfortunately, Alysha Clark of the Aces blocked her attempt. Nonetheless, head coach Sandy Brondello stands by her decision, stating that she would make the same call again, illustrating the unwavering trust in Stewart’s capabilities.

Remarkably, Stewart’s 10 points in the concluding loss marked her lowest scoring performance in a game during the entire 2023 postseason.

Reflecting on the challenges faced against the Aces, Stewart acknowledges that the opposing team threw formidable defensive strategies at them, deliberately attempting to disrupt their rhythm and ball movement. Despite their struggles, Stewart and her teammates maintained confidence in their shots, despite the unfortunate outcome.

In contrast, Wilson displayed exceptional shooting percentages throughout the playoffs, shooting 55.4% from the floor and surpassing Stewart’s achievements. With these remarkable numbers, Wilson concludes the playoffs with her finest postseason performance to date. In the previous year, she garnered averages of 20.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, and a 55.2% shooting accuracy during the playoffs, contributing significantly to the Aces’ first WNBA title. This season, Wilson further improved in all three categories, solidifying her status as a formidable force in the league.

Comparatively, Stewart’s performance in this postseason stands as one of the worst in her career. She had only ever fallen below 40% shooting accuracy in the playoffs once before, during the Seattle Storm’s elimination after one game in 2017. Additionally, her shooting percentage dipped below 50% in 2018 when the Storm won the championship after eight games.

Particularly glaring is Stewart’s formidable decline in 3-point shooting, with an abysmal 19.6% conversion rate in the postseason compared to her consistent shooting performance in previous playoffs, where she never averaged below 40%. In fact, she had an impressive record of 50% or better in four out of five previous postseason appearances.


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