wolves

Last shots: Wiggins continues to improve, and this might not be just a hot streak



MINNEAPOLIS – Twenty-two quick thoughts for Andrew Wiggins in his masterful 40-point performance in Minnesota’s 125-119 overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night at Target Center.

1. On Friday night the Golden State Warriors were in town. In previous years this has meant that Target Center is filled to the brim, fans arrive early to watch Steph Curry go through his iconic pregame warmup routine, there are dozens of Kevin Durant jerseys in the crowd, and it’s a tough matchup for the Wolves. Watching guys like Durant and Klay Thompson had Wolves fans dreaming of what Andrew Wiggins was supposed to be.

2. Well, on Friday night these weren’t the same old Golden State Warriors that showed up on Friday night, and it wasn’t the same old Andrew Wiggins, either.

3. Wiggins has now strung together a significant stretch of good basketball to start the season, and Friday night was yet another step in the right direction for him, and the biggest one he’s taken at that.

4. He finished with 40 points on 17-of-33 shooting in 44 minutes. Wiggins was the best player on the floor for the Wolves for the fourth consecutive game, and the past two have both featured Karl-Anthony Towns.

5. “We needed all 40 points and almost 45 minutes of him and I thought he did a nice job of getting downhill and creating for others as well,” head coach Ryan Saunders said. “He had seven assists and no turnovers. He basically played the point for most of the game.”

6. Sure, he’s had stretches in the past where he’s looked like a different player. Remember Saunders’ first game as the interim head coach last year when Wiggins finished with 40 and the Wolves beat the Thunder? That type of performance didn’t last, it only left fans lingering for more. This both looks and feels different. This feels like it might become much more frequent than any of his previous blips of success.

7. The reason the Wolves won on Friday night was Wiggins. Without him, the Wolves can’t outscore Golden State and D’Angelo Russell – who poured in 52 points on his own. There were big plays made down the stretch by others – both Towns and Robert Covington come to mind – but Wiggins was the one in the driver’s seat, make no mistake.

8. Once Wiggins checked back into the game for good with 4:18 left in regulation – after a very brief 59 seconds on the bench – it felt like every single offensive possession went through him. If he wasn’t the one taking the shot, he was setting someone else up to finish.

9. In the final 4:18 of regulation and the entirety of overtime, Wiggins made or assisted on seven of Minnesota’s 10 made field goals. The other three makes the Wolves had were all put backs off of offensive rebounds.

10. Simply put, Wiggins was spectacular. And he was doing this in the way the Wolves want to see it done. The midrange jump shot hasn’t been eliminated from his repertoire, but it’s been limited. On Friday night he attempted three of them, knocking down a pair. That’s a figure the team can live with. Aside from that, Wiggins has improved in other areas, too. With both Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier out on Friday, he was tasked with being the team’s primary point guard.

11. “He’s done a lot of things to improve his game. Strength is a big part of that too. Him getting to the basket, being able to finish through guys,” Saunders said. “I’ve liked his footwork around the basket as well. He’s been very, I think tonight he was good in terms of his shot selection. He took a few midrange shots, but a couple of them went down so I’ll take that when they go down, but ultimately, he was very good in terms of our shot emphasis.”

12. This is something close to what the Wolves have envisioned for Wiggins. He’s still growing and progressing towards where he can one day be, but nights like Friday show that his ceiling is still tremendously high, but still attainable.

13. “It’s just exciting to watch,” Josh Okogie said. “He’s very talented and he works extremely hard, contrary to what a lot of people believe, and I’m just happy to see an outcome like that happen for him.”

14. Wiggins does work hard. Whether or not everyone thinks that is up for debate, but he’s working hard at changing who he is as a basketball player, and he does deserve some credit for that. He deserves more credit for this type of performances, though. And the more frequently they happen, the less frequent the doubters will become.

15. Aside from Wiggins, credit it due to Covington, Towns, and Okogie in the win. Covington may have had the biggest non-Andrew Wiggins play for the Wolves on Friday night.

16. After Towns trimmed the Warriors’ lead to two points with 25 seconds left in regulation, the Wolves put on the full court press to try and force a turnover to give themselves a chance to tie things up and send it to overtime. The next thing to happen was Covington forcing a tie up with Golden State’s Eric Paschall with 14.4 left in regulation.

17. Covington won the jump ball at center court, got the ball to Wiggins, and he calmly attacked the rim, laying the ball up and in with 5.6 seconds left. The Wolves then got the stop they needed and new life after things looked bleak at one point.

18. As far as Okogie, there are going to be head-scratching moments with him from time to time. He’s going to miss shots, he’s going to turn the ball over, he’s going to play at maximum speed. But he’s also going to make winning plays. That’s just what he did on Friday night.

19. When Okogie is on the floor he just does things. That’s simply the best way it can be phrased right now. Not all of them are good, but there’s never a question of whether or not he’s on the floor.

20. There was the flirtation this summer between the Wolves and Russell, that’s no secret at this point. Minnesota was putting the full court press on the All-Star guard attempting to woo him in free agency. On Friday night he had to make the collective mouths of the franchise salivate just a little bit.

21. For as good as Wiggins was, Russell matched him shot for shot. Russell finished with 52 points nine rebounds, and five assists in the game. He had a chance to make the game-winner as the buzzer went off in regulation, but his 3-pointer clanked off the iron. On this shell of a team the Warriors are currently trotting out there on their parade to the NBA Draft Lottery, Russell is the brightest spot, without question. Friday night validated why the Wolves wanted him, and someday again might make a run to have him wearing their colors.

22. The Wolves are back in action on Sunday afternoon against the Denver Nuggets at Target Center. Talk to you then.





wolves