Breanna Stewart is 21 years old, and she just scored 38 points in a WNBA game.
Chew on that for a second.
It wasn’t a product of garbage time in a blowout. No, the Storm trailed late in a back-and-forth final quarter against Atlanta on Tuesday, and it was Stewart who brought her team back before Sue Bird sank the dagger in the final seconds of an 84-81 win. The 38 points scored by Stewart are tied for the most by any WNBA player this season.
Even more satisfying for Stewart, the epic performance came in front of two family members who made the cross-country trip to watch her play.
“To have my mom and my brother here for this game, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Stewart said. “It would be nice if they were staying, but they’ll watch from afar.”
Stewart’s family may be going back to New York, but the rookie forward is just getting started in her new city. She’s now averaging 29.2 points on 68 percent shooting in the last four games, including 10-for-17 from three-point range. On Tuesday, Stewart recorded the second-highest point total in franchise history, behind only Lauren Jackson’s 47 in an overtime game in 2007.
She even surpassed her own college career high – the most Stewart scored during her unrivaled four years at the University of Connecticut was 37.
Said Atlanta coach Michael Cooper: “Breanna Stewart is going to be a special player in this league.”
It took her just 16 shots to get to 38 points, equating to a ridiculous 2.4 points for every attempt. Stewart once again spent plenty of time at the charity stripe, going 11-of-13 from the line and bringing her total to 35-of-39 during this dominant four-game stretch. Her 12 field goals came in a wide variety of ways: running hook shots, three-pointers, layups in traffic and midrange jumpers.
After tying the Storm’s rookie record with five three-pointers on Friday against the Sun, Stewart knocked one down early in Tuesday night’s game. That opened up a number of different ways to attack the defense, as Atlanta had to close out on the 6-4 forward 22 feet from the hoop. Stewart made a couple of defenders bite on pump fakes before driving in for easier shots.
“Sometimes I am surprised,” Stewart said of teams leaving her open at the three-point line. “But I just continue to be aggressive, and I think teams are going to key in on that a little more.”
Maybe it’s because Stewart went through a bit of a slump earlier this month, when she made less than 30 percent of her shots and didn’t convert a single three-pointer in a five-game stretch. Or maybe opposing teams are giving her extra space because they simply have no other choice.
In both fast break and half-court situations, Stewart has proven to be a dynamic passer that makes her teammates better. She nearly had a triple-double against Phoenix on June 3, recording nine assists and just two turnovers in a Storm victory. Since then, Stewart has finished with six assists on multiple occasions.
Against the Dream on Tuesday, it was her turn to shoulder the scoring load.
“She’s adapting,” Storm coach Jenny Boucek said. “We have players on this team that are willing and able to create for not only themselves, but for others as well. And that’s what we want. Right now Stewie is getting hers, but it could be different on another night. Stewie has shown that she’s willing to be a facilitator if that’s what the defense is giving her. That’s one of my favorite things about our team, including Stewie.”
Following Tuesday’s win, Stewart ranks fifth in the league in scoring (18.9 points per game), second in rebounding (9.4) and fourth in blocked shots (1.9). She’s second among all rookies in assists (3.1 per game) and third in steals (1.3).
Any questions about whether Stewart could continue to dominate at the pro level after a historically great college career have already been answered. And we’re only 15 games into her rookie season.