Wiggins propels Warriors to 3-2 lead in NBA Finals

Wiggins propels Warriors to 3-2 lead in NBA Finals

Courtesy of Matthew J. Lee/Getty Images

If the Warriors go on to win their fourth NBA championship in the last eight years, Stephen Curry will undoubtedly — and deservedly — be named Finals MVP. But make no mistake, Golden State would not be here without Andrew Wiggins.

After finishing Game 4 with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, Wiggins was even better in Game 5. On a night when Stephen Curry struggled with his jump shot, finishing 0 for 9 from 3-point range, Wiggins filled the void, posting a game-high 26 points and 13 boards in a 104-94 win that gave the Warriors a 3-2 series lead over the Boston Celtics.

And that doesn't even get to his defense. Throughout the playoffs, Wiggins has been tasked with locking down the opponent's best player. This series, that means Jayson Tatum. Boston's All-NBA First Team selection has shot just 37 percent from the field in the Finals, eight percent below his regular-season average. Credit Wiggins for Tatum's struggles.

So how did we get here? More importantly, how did Wiggins get here? The former number one overall draft pick has had a fascinating journey, and he's still only 27 years old.

Many of us have can relate to the feeling of having our abilities overlooked or underestimated. Such a large part of success simply comes down to getting a fair shot.

Wiggins didn't have that in Minnesota, where he spent the first six years of his NBA career. Despite winning Rookie of the Year and averaging 20 points per game during his time with the Timberwolves, he was labeled by many as a bust. He was asked to carry an unfair load for a losing franchise.


Then came the trade to Golden State in 2020. At that time, no one else wanted to take on Wiggins' hefty contract, so the Warriors also received two draft picks in exchange for D'Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman.

“A lot of people looked at the trade like, 'Oh, it's another piece that they can move,'” Draymond Green recalled after Game 5. “And we looked at the trade from the very beginning like that is a guy who can fit next to a healthy group absolutely well.

“When he first came here — and I'll never forget — it's when Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) wasn't with the Knicks, and Thibs was like, 'You guys are going to love him. He competes, he defends.” And he was telling us Jimmy (Butler) loved him. And we all know how Jimmy Butler is. If you've got any softness to you, Jimmy doesn't like you.”

It turns out all Wiggins needed was to join a franchise that believed in his abilities. A franchise that knew how to win and could help show him the way.

Fast forward two years and the man that so many gave up on has become a key cog on a team just one win away from an NBA title.

“It's something I've dreamt about, for sure,” Wiggins said. “Being in the league, this is the ultimate stage. It doesn't get bigger than this.”

Added Curry: “I think the bottom line is he's just having fun playing basketball. That's the biggest thing. Everything he's been through in his career, all the talk about him as a number one guy, number two guy, number one pick, all that type of stuff, I'm sure he's enjoying this more than anything else he's experienced in this league.”

Anyone surprised by Wiggins' performance in these Finals hasn't been paying attention. Don't forget, he was a starter in the All-Star Game this season for the first time in his career.

The talent has always been there — on both sides of the ball. Only now is it being utilized to its full potential.

“I think it's a reminder that for almost every player in the NBA, circumstances are everything,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You kind of need to find the right place, the right teammates, that kind of stuff, and Wiggs has been a great fit.”

The feeling is clearly mutual.

“There are just a lot of great people here, great people here that challenge you, they hold you accountable,” Wiggins praised. “And the support system — everyone on this team, the organization, they support you. They want to see you do good and they're going to put you in a position to do good.”

Wiggins has been more than just good in this series, averaging 18 points and nine rebounds, along with 1.2 blocks and steals.

“I think the bigger the challenge has been that we've thrown in front of him, the better he's responded,” Green said. “And you want a guy like that, that when the stage gets big, they respond and they play their best basketball, and that's what he's been doing.”

With a victory on Thursday night in Boston, Wiggins and the Warriors can achieve the ultimate goal.

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