Seattle, WA — When you have an all-world player who is as good as Breanna Stewart, you need to utilize her.
Why wouldn’t you?
Stewart, Seattle’s 6-foot-4 forward, is already a very proven basketball player. In college, Stewart led the University of Connecticut to four straight national championships, and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player four times.
Stewart was the first pick in the WNBA Draft this season, and is already making a significant impact in the league. Heading into Wednesday’s game, Stewart averaged 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
She even played a big part in the U.S. Women’s teams’ Olympic gold medal run in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Yet in Wednesday night’s game against the Dallas Wings in Seattle, there was a stretch where Stewart’s production virtually disappeared.
To start out the game, the Storm looked great. They dominated the Wings out of the gate, getting out to a 15-point lead. And it all had to do with Stewart.
She was moving the ball. She was setting useful screens to create productive shots. Stewart was getting tons of touches in the post, whether it was off of a pick-and-roll or from sealing off her defender. Regardless, the Storm were getting the ball inside.
And it was working.
Stewart grabbed eight points almost instantly, and created countless more shots in the first half to put Seattle in a great position. The game was theirs to win.
But Seattle got complacent.
They quit moving the ball. Stewart wasn’t getting the ball in the post. Seattle started launching up shots from the outside — many times it was the first available shot they could get; it wasn’t working.
In the third quarter, Dallas outscored the Storm by 11 points, and was able to tie the game back up. Seattle’s major lead had disappeared.
And it’s because Stewart wasn’t being utilized properly.
Now, the Storm did figure it out. In the last five minutes of the game, Seattle quickly extended its lead back out, going on a 19-7 run to give them a 78-66 win. However, it was because of their inside presence.
They were much more patient. They were getting the ball inside, and making good shots. Seattle made several major stops, too, with Stewart coming up with two huge blocks in the final two minutes to create offense on the other side and push them to a 12-point win.
Now, Stewart’s box score does look impressive. The rookie finished with a double-double 17 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday. But her box score is misleading.
Nearly all of her production came early in the game, or in the final five minutes. Had the Storm continued to use Stewart to create offense during the third quarter, and not just force up shots, Dallas would have never gotten back into the game.
Seattle would have cruised to a major win — and would have improved their chances in making a playoff spot with ease.
Instead, they had to fight through a very tough game. They made Wednesday’s game much harder than it needed to be.
And it’s only because they got complacent.