Wiggs’ signature moment in Game 5 authenticates value to Dubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea:
SAN FRANCISCO – After performing with a fury and brilliance in Game 4 that left the Celtics and the basketball world bowing at his feet, Stephen Curry in Game 5 Monday night was ordinary, a superstar temporarily stripped of his superpowers.
Or maybe Andrew Wiggins simply borrowed them.
Wiggins has had several signature moments this postseason, but his work in a 104-94 NBA Finals victory over Boston amounted to a signature game.
With Curry struggling with his shooting – he was 0-of-9 from deep, snapping his streak of games with at least one 3-ball at 233 – Wiggins soared in to fill the void, scoring a team-high 26 points, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds, adding two steals and a block.
“It’s something I dreamed about for sure, being in the league, and this is the ultimate stage,” Wiggins said after playing a team-high 43 minutes. “It does not get bigger than this. I was out there being aggressive. It was a good game. “
It was the kind of game the Warriors needed to take a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series, putting themselves one win away from a championship.
Getting such efficiency and activity from Wiggins is particularly satisfying, as the veteran forward has spent most of his eight-year career fighting varying levels of criticism. Doesn’t care enough. Too timid. A star one night, invisible the next.
The Warriors took a chance on Feb. 6, 2020, when they acquired Wiggins and a first-round draft pick (which was to select Jonathan Kuminga) in a trade that sent D’Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans III and Omari Spellman.
“When he first came here, and I’ll never forget, it was when: [Tom Thibodeau] wasn’t with the Knicks, ”Draymond Green recalled. “And Thibs was like, ‘You’re going to love him. He competes. He defends. ‘ And he was telling us Jimmy loved him.
“We all know how Jimmy Butler is. If you have any softness to you, Jimmy do not like you. ”
The Warriors won the deal from the start; Russell would never have been a good fit. But Wiggins this season is flashing the potential projected when he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. He has become part of the essence essence.
“That trust has been building for two and a half years now since he got here,” Green said. “A lot of people looked at that trade like, ‘Oh, that’s another piece they can move.’ We looked at the trade from the very beginning like that is a guy who can fit next to a healthy group. ”
Even though Wiggins clearly had rounded out his game at both ends of the floor, his selection as an All-Star Game starter in February set off another round of moaning and belittling in many quarters. The doubters were back, insisting he was unworthy.
To be fair, there were many moments in the second half of the season when their disparagement seemed accurate. Wiggins’ play tailed off.
Maybe he was saving it for the postseason, during which he has been tremendous.
“We knew we needed his athleticism and defense and his versatility,” coach Steve Kerr, recalling the trade, said. “We had no idea that he would make this kind of contribution. But I think it’s a reminder that for almost every player in the NBA, circumstances are everything. You kind of need to find the right place, the right teammates, that kind of stuff. Wiggs has been a great fit. ”
As good as Wiggins has been during the postseason, his Game 5 performance was the first time he was driving force, top scorer, top rebounder and closer. When the Warriors took a 75-74 lead into the fourth quarter, Wiggins entered takeover mode. He submitted 10 points, on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, along with five rebounds. He was plus-15 over 11 minutes in the fourth.
Wiggins kept shooting and rebounding and attacking until the Celtics surrendered. Which they did shortly after he drove around Derrick White for an emphatic dunk that gave the Warriors a 99-84 lead with 2:10 remaining.
“We do not get more excited than when Wiggs dunks on somebody,” Klay Thompson said. “And that really uplifts the whole team and the Bay Area.”
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The dunk whipped the sellout crowd (18,064) at Chase Center into a frenzy. It was the perfect punctuation for 24-10 run during that final quarter that secured the game and advanced Golden State’s hopes from possible to probable.
That’s worthy of admission into the winning winner’s circle. Wiggins not only has found his place but also has earned his way.
“Man, there are just a lot of great people here,” he said. “Great people here that challenge you. They hold you accountable. The support system, everyone on this team, this organization, they support you and they want to see you do good, and they put you in a position to do good. ”
There will be times in the future when Wiggins will be on the rueful end of somebody’s debate. It’s a part of his journey. But he now has receipts he can flash as evidence in his favor.
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