New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart was named the WNBA MVP on Tuesday. Stewart averaged a career-best 23 points per game in the regular season. Lindsey Wasson/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty earned the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player award for the second time Tuesday in a very close race.

There were only 13 points separating Stewart from second-place finisher Alyssa Thomas of Connecticut and last year’s MVP, A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas. Stewart received 446 points (20 first-place votes, 23 second-place votes and 17 third-place votes). Thomas had 439 points (23, 12 and 25). Wilson received 433 points (17, 25, 17 and 1).

The seven-point difference between Stewart and Thomas was the second-smallest margin between the first- and second-place finishers. The closest finish was a two-point difference between Sheryl Swoopes and Lauren Jackson in 2005.

The 13 points separating Stewart and Wilson represent the smallest margin between first- and third-place vote-getters for MVP, surpassing the 45-point difference in 2013 between Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne.

“It hurt like hell, it really did,” Wilson said of not being named MVP. “But it’s all part of the game.”

All the WNBA awards are voted on by a 60-person national media panel, which voted for their top five choices for MVP. Players were awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for a second, five for a third, three for a fourth and one for a fifth.


Stewart was impressed with the way the other two top candidates played.

“The competitive camaraderie that we have with one another, but also the way we’re continuing to show excellence in different ways and be the conversation, that’s the way the league needs to go,” Stewart said. “Have people watching different players and making sure they see greatness on all different levels.”

Stewart, 29, who also won the award in 2018, decided to move closer to home and arrived in New York as a free agent this past offseason. The move paid immediate dividends for her and the Liberty. Stewart, also the AP Player of the Year, helped the team finish the regular season with the second-best record and was the WNBA’s second-leading scorer, averaging a career-best 23 points a game. She scored over 40 points three times this season, including 45 in her home debut.

Now she has the Liberty in the semifinals of the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The best-of-five series with Connecticut is tied 1-1. She’s the first New York player to win the league’s top honor.

Wilson, who edged Stewart 478-446 in last year’s MVP balloting, had another stellar season, averaging a career-best 22.8 points and 9.5 rebounds in leading the Aces to a record 34 wins. She had 29 games of 20 points or better this season, and has upped her game in the playoffs as Las Vegas looks to become the first repeat champion since Los Angeles in 2001-02.

The Aces first have to get by the Dallas Wings in the semifinals.

“It hurts across the board,” Wilson said about her third-place finish, “but at the end of the day I’m not going to harp on it very long because we have a competitive team to play against in Dallas, and that’s my main focus. (Coach) Becky (Hammon) called me and I was like, ‘Give me 24 hours and I’m here.’ ”

Thomas was the first player to record at least 600 points, 400 rebounds and 300 assists in a season. She also set a league high with 27 double-doubles — including six triple-doubles — and set a league record with 316 assists – 7.9 per game – despite playing forward.

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