Breanna Stewart shines as Liberty cruise past Storm

Breanna Stewart and the Liberty capped off their most recent road trip with a 2-1 record after defeating the Seattle Storm on Sunday.

It was Stewart’s second game against her former team and she led the way in the 81-66 victory. She scored 14 points in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 20.

New York played pristine basketball in the first half. The Storm were used as a punching bag by a team looking to bounce back from a bad loss. Seattle searched for answers early as the Liberty ran the floor to assist on 17-of-18 made shot attempts in the first half. The team later went on to assist on 30-of-33 made field goals.

“I think the way we move the ball is kind of like the standard of what we want to do,” Stewart said postgame. “Especially [after] last game we struggled in a lot of different areas, but assists were one thing that stuck out a little bit.”

It was rough for Seattle.

So rough that Storm head coach Noelle Quinn used all of her team’s first-half timeouts and then called another that she didn’t have. The miscue led to a technical foul en route to a 17-point halftime deficit.

Breanna Stewart and the Liberty got their 11th win of the season on Sunday.

Sandy Brondello’s squad came into Sunday’s matchup with emphasis on limiting All-Star guard Jewell Loyd’s efficiency. In the Liberty win against the Storm on May 30, Loyd scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting. She also scored a career-high 41 points in a loss against the Minnesota Lynx on Friday.

The Liberty forced her to shoot 3-of-11 for eight points in the first half. Brondello’s team rarely left Loyd with just one defender on most possessions.

The Storm attempted to get Loyd one-on-one possessions against Sabrina Ionescu, who has been targeted by opposing teams this season, to get easy buckets.

Ionescu was targeted in Thursday’s loss against the Las Vegas Aces as well. Stars Chelsea Gray (14 points & six assists) and Kelsey Plum (18 points & eight assists) created offense on Ionescu from the jump en route to the blowout Aces victory. But that wasn’t the case early on Sunday.

Ionescu was able to generate stops on the WNBA’s leading scorer and contributed to the five-time All-Star’s inefficient start. The Oregon product also finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

“Sabrina is gonna keep growing in that area but she’s committed to growing and that’s what it’s about,” Brondello said about her star guard. “The little one percenters of positioning and hand pressure and obviously knowing the scout.”

Loyd, who was selected to be a starter for this year’s All-Star Game in Las Vegas, scored 13 points in the third quarter in hopes to mount a comeback. She finished with 27 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the field. She also committed six turnovers.

The Storm cut the lead to 13 after a 9-0 run in the third and were within single digits in the final period. But, the poor start hindered Seattle from preventing the Liberty’s 11th win of the season.

The Storm trailed by double-digits for most of the game. Brondello’s team won the fast break points battle, 19-7. There was no resistance from the Storm defense following turnovers, which led to the fast break discrepancy. The Storm committed 19 turnovers during the matchup, five more than their opponents.

Courtney Vandersloot stayed on pace to lead the league in assists per game after getting 13 dimes to go along with 18 points.

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Betnijah Laney finished with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Sparkplug Marine Johannes scored six points in her first seven minutes of action off the bench. She later cooled off and shot 2-of-7 from the field.

Besides Loyd, the Storm didn’t have a double-digit scorer until Sami Whitcomb surpassed the mark in the fourth quarter. She finished with 10 points, two steals and two assists. Storm center Ezi Magbegor, who was just selected to her first All-Star Game, finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.

“We kept them to 66. That’s a losing score,” Brondello said about limiting the Storm as a whole. “That’s pretty good for us.”

The Liberty will now return home after going 2-1 during their road trip. They’ll certainly take their tough win against the Connecticut Sun and blowout victory over Seattle.

But the 17-point loss against the Aces proves that the team still has improvements to make on both sides of the ball.

For now, the Liberty will head back to Brooklyn to prepare for Wednesday’s matchup against Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury.

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