Sunday, September 20th, 2020

Breanna Stewart comes back strong, leads Storm in season opener vs. Liberty, players use media time for Breonna Taylor discussion

Published on July 25, 2020

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WNBA Black Lives Matter

Photo: NBAE/Getty Images.

Breanna Stewart didn’t miss a step in returning to the court after a year off of recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. The 2018 MVP finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and a tied a regular-season career-high of four steals in leading Seattle past New York 87-71. She was among four Storm players in double figures as the team shut down the Liberty and No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu.

While Seattle led for most of the game and dominated the fourth quarter, things were not as smooth in the second quarter when the Liberty began the period on a 9-0 run. New York’s efforts gave them a one-point lead after free throws from guard Layshia Clarendon at 7:54. However, that advantage was short-lived as Seattle’s Alysha Clark made a layup at 6:21 to give her team the lead again. The Storm never trailed again and went into the break with a 42-35 lead. Seattle sealed the game in the fourth quarter, outscoring New York 21-14.

Jewell Loyd scored 14 points for Seattle. Sue Bird contributed 11 points plus five assists while Jordin Canada added 10 points off the bench plus four rebounds and four assists. Rookie Ezi Magbegor added seven points in her debut in 12 minutes of play.

“She really proved she can help us,” Seattle coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “She’s long, she’s active, you know she rebounds. A good finisher around the rim. So, I’m really, really happy for Ezi and the effort that she gave us today.”

Layshia Clarendon paced New York with 20 points, and Ionescu scored 12, grabbed 6 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists. Amanda Zahui B was also in double figures for the Liberty with 10 points plus 8 rebounds.

The Storm players used their postgame time to talk about the life of Breonna Taylor, whose name graced the back of the jerseys of both teams. Taylor was a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician who was murdered by Louisville Metro Police Department officers who stormed her home looking for a suspect who did not live there and who was already in police custody. Before the game, both teams stood in silence for 26 seconds to honor Taylor after speeches from Clarendon and Stewart. The players also left the court when the national anthem played.

“Yes, we play basketball,” Bird said, “but right now, we have a platform to bring awareness, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Stewart addressed the reasons why players wanted to address systemic racism during the pregame ceremony.

“We were debuting the season, and the momentum for what we do off the court is just as important, if not more important, than what we do on the court” Stewart said. “And we really wanted to take advantage of that and continue to highlight things we need to be better and things that we need to be better in this world.”

During the pregame dedication to Taylor, Clarendon spoke first followed by remarks from Stewart.

“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor,”  Clarendon said. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.”

“I think Layshia and Stewie did a phenomenal job of speaking on behalf of all of us,” said Bird, “and talking about the things that we are really focused on this season which again is to bring awareness and honor Breonna Taylor’s life, to honor all of those who have been murdered senselessly.”

Seattle is back in action on Tuesday against Minnesota while New York faces Dallas on Wednesday.

Notes

  • Twenty-seven seconds into the game, Natasha Howard scored the first basket of the season off a swipe-and-dish by Alysha Clark.
  • Sue Bird suited up for her WNBA-leading 509th career game after she was sidelined last season while recovering from knee surgery. The WNBA all-time assists leader dished out 5 dimes without committing a turnover.
  • With the win, Seattle improves to 11-10 all-time in season openers. This was the second time that Seattle faced New York in its season opener, and the first since Sue Bird made her WNBA debut in 2002.
  • Liberty guard Kia Nurse left the game during the second quarter with a sprained ankle.

Quick Stats

  • Points in the Paint: Storm 26 (13/25), Liberty 26 (13/22)
  • 2nd Chance Points: Storm 13 (4/8), Liberty 7 (3/9)
  • Fast Break Points: Storm 0 (0/0), Liberty 2 (1/1)
  • Biggest Lead: Storm 19, Liberty 2
  • Lead Changes: 4
  • Times Tied: 6
  • Officials: Cheryl Flores, Isaac Barnett, Ashley  Gilpin

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