Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson won the matchup of MVPs in the 2023 WNBA Finals over her New York Liberty counterpart Breanna Stewart.
Wilson won the Finals MVP award in the process. Her trophy haul should provide ample consolation for her loss to Stewart in the voting for the regular-season MVP award.
Of course, some might say Wilson deserved the 2023 WNBA MVP award over Stewart in the first place – including Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon, who has been vocal from the start about the snub. But Wilson, who did win the 2022 MVP award, set herself apart throughout the championship series, leading the Aces to a 3-1 win over the Liberty.
In the 2023 playoffs, Wilson averaged 23.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, beating out her New York Liberty counterpart. Stewart averaged 18.4 points and 10.2 rebounds, and through 10 postseason games shot just 35.8% from the field.
Stewart made 42.1% of her shots in Game 1 against the Aces, but in Game 2 was held to just 35.3% shooting. In the final game of the series, she shot 17.6% from the field and scored just 10 points. She went 67-187 in the playoffs, which is not what the Liberty needed from their star player.
Stewart also struggled with 3-point shooting, making just 19.6% of her shots from behind the arc in the postseason compared to 35.5% in the regular season. She sunk just nine 3-pointers out of 46 attempts in the playoffs.
And on Wednesday, New York put the ball in her hands for the game-winning shot — but she was denied by Alysha Clark. Still, if you ask head coach Sandy Brondello, the decision to put the ball in Stewart’s hands is one she’d made again.
“I put the ball in the hands of the MVP because we trust her. And it just didn’t work out today,” Brondello said. “It ended up with Breanna at the end, so it was just her trying to make a play from there. So, I [would] still do it again. That’s the right call.”
Stewart’s 10 points in the series-ending loss were the fewest she had scored in a game in the 2023 postseason.
“I think they would just throw whatever defense they had at us and make sure it was ugly,” Stewart said. “Sometimes we lost our flow and our ball movement, but [we were] confident behind all the shots that we got, and they just didn’t go in.”
Wilson, meanwhile, nearly doubled Stewart’s shooting percentages in the playoffs, going 82-for-148 from the floor. She shot 55.4% through nine playoff games.
With those numbers, Wilson finishes the playoffs having put together her best postseason to date. Last year, she averaged 20.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 55.2% shooting in the playoffs en route to the Aces’ first title – all career bests. She improved in all three categories this season.
Comparatively, this is one of the worst postseasons of Stewart’s career. She only averaged below 40% shooting in the playoffs one other time – in 2017, when the Seattle Storm were eliminated after one game. The only other time she’s been below 50% came in 2018, when Seattle played eight games en route to winning the title.
Her 19.6% 3-point shooting is particularly glaring, as she had never averaged below 40% in the playoffs, and averaged 50% or better in four out of the five previous postseasons in which she has played.