Stephen Curry was mesmerizing on Friday night time. If the Golden State Warriors do go on to win their fourth NBA Championship in eight seasons, it is going to be one of the crucial memorable championship performances in league historical past. Curry, a generational expertise and one of many NBA’s hottest gamers, responded when his team wanted him most.
Whereas that’s all true, Curry wanted any individual on the market on the identical vibe as him, somebody who was not prepared for the season to be on the road at home the next Monday. With Draymond Inexperienced struggling for many of the game, and Klay Thompson not offering a lot offensive help till the second half, the Warrior in battle by Curry’s aspect all night time was Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds because the Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics, 107-97, to tie the sequence at two wins apiece. It wasn’t simply the entire, it was his exercise the complete night time. Wiggins has been giving Jayson Tatum matches all sequence as the first defender on the Celtics’ first-team All-NBA star. For the sequence Tatum is capturing 34.1 p.c from the sphere — a Finals document low for a participant averaging 20 or extra makes an attempt. In Recreation 4, he took a few breaths whereas Nemanja Bjelica guarded Tatum, after which Wiggins received proper again to work doing yeoman’s work on protection whereas Tatum shot 34.8 p.c from the sphere. Wiggins additionally led the Warriors in minutes with simply over 43 — three extra minutes than Curry — and was the Warriors’ second-leading scorer till late within the fourth quarter with 17 factors.
And Wiggins did it in crucial game of his profession, as he’s been doing all postseason with sturdy elimination performances in opposition to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks. It’s comprehensible why he informed Yahoo Sports activities, “I’ve all the time been a competitor and needed to win. That ought to by no means have been questioned.”
It’s what has been questioned about him most since he was a prime recruit his freshman 12 months at Kansas. A participant who will get off the bottom so quick it’s like somebody pressed a button, he would undergo lengthy durations of inactivity on the courtroom. It continued within the NBA in his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves as their No. 1 total draft decide in 2014. He had some 20-plus-point-per-game seasons, however his protection was maligned extra typically than it was complemented and nobody would’ve thought that he would haul in 16 rebounds in a game.
Then there was the notorious Jimmy Butler scrimmage. Keep in mind, 2018 when that first commerce to the Miami Heat fell via and Butler confirmed as much as apply and owned it. He cursed out the entire team, whereas dominating the starters with third string gamers and solely took one shot. After shredding his former team, he talked to former ESPN host Rachel Nichols about his issues with the group. His drawback was that his youthful extra gifted teammates didn’t play as hard as he did.
“Who’s essentially the most god-gifted participant on our team? Wigs,” Butler mentioned to Nichols. “Wigs received the longest arms, the largest arms, can soar the best, can run the quickest. However like who performs the toughest? Me. I play hard. I play actually hard.”
It takes an expert degree of each athleticism and competitiveness to be within the NBA. Some gamers get by on yet one more than the opposite. Butler will get by extra on competitiveness and that’s the reason he was so upset with Timberwolves. Wiggins, for a lot of his profession, has been the other. Butler felt like that made him a greater participant, and he nonetheless is a greater participant than Wiggins.
Nonetheless, for the primary half of the common season, and for the 2022 NBA postseason, we’ve seen Butler-like effort from Wiggins. With out him, at finest, the Warriors’ season is already over after a four-game sweep to the Celtics. As nice as Curry has been, Finals MVP nice, team sports activities don’t work with out assist. Wiggins is giving him, the Warriors, and the Celtics all the things he has on each possession. It doesn’t erase what occurred earlier than in his profession, however it’ll change how folks discuss him going ahead.