Before this season Andre WigginsThe playoff recap consisted of a five-game stint with Minnesota in 2018. Wiggins averaged 15.8 points in that series and the T-Wolves were eliminated in the first round. In 20 postseason games this year, Wiggins is averaging 16 points. He collected 7.3 rebounds. And after a 26-point, 13-rebound effort in Game 5, he pushed the Warriors within a championship win.
It was Golden State 104, Boston 94 on Monday, with the Warriors taking a 3-2 series lead. After beating the Celtics in Game 4, Golden State came out hot, taking a 27-16 lead early in the first quarter. Wiggins scored seven points in the first and led a Warriors defense that held the Celtics to 34.8 percent shooting.
The second quarter was more or less similar. Wiggins grabbed the Warriors offense again, scoring nine points. This time, however, Boston followed suit, with Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart combining for 14 points in the quarter. At halftime, Golden State entered the locker room with a 12-point lead.
The Warriors have occupied the third quarters of this series. In the first four games, Golden State beat Boston 136-87 in the third. In Game 5, the Celtics turned things around. Tatum is gone. It was a frustrating series for Tatum. With Wiggins draped over him, Tatum failed to break 40% shooting in three of the first four games, with the physics of the final appearing to have affected him. In the third quarter, however, Tatum got hot. He scored nine points, connecting on 3 of 4 from three points. Smart and Jaylen Brown scored nine apiece. After missing its first 12 lines, a Finals record, Boston connected on its next eight, also a Finals record.
Boston’s vaunted defense locked in, especially on Stephen Curry. After scoring 43 points in Game 4, Curry struggled in Game 5. He scored 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting, including 1-of-6 in the third quarter. “They were trying to attack him over and over again,” Steve Kerr said. After leading by as much as 16 points, Golden State entered fourth clinging to a one-point lead.
In the fourth, the Warriors took over. Klay Thompson scored six of his 21 points. Gary Payton II, who has given Golden State a huge boost at both ends since returning from an elbow injury, scored four of his 15. Curry added four more. Wiggins scored 10, the last two a dunk with just over two minutes left to give Golden State a 15-point lead.
This season has been all about redemption for Wiggins. First choice in 2014, Wiggins has failed to exploit his potential in six seasons in Minnesota. In 2020, the Warriors acquired Wiggins – along with a first-round pick – as part of a deal for D’Angelo Russell. Stability offered for the first time in his career, Wiggins, who played for four head coaches at Minnesota, thrived. Last season, Wiggins averaged 18.6 points in 71 games, connecting on 38% of his three-point attempts. This year, Wiggins has averaged 17.2 points while shooting 39.3% from his threes. He was named an All-Star starter. He became Golden State’s best wing defenseman. Kerr called Wiggins a “key move” to reviving the Warriors dynasty.
“We knew we needed his athleticism, his defense and his versatility,” Kerr said. “We had no idea he would make that kind of contribution. But I think it’s a reminder that for almost every player in the NBA, circumstances are everything. You kind of have to find the right place, good teammates, that sort of thing. Wiggs was a great choice.
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The Celtics will return home with a chance to salvage their season. Boston has been here before. They rallied from a 3-2 deficit to beat Milwaukee in the second round. But the Celtics’ self-inflicted injuries are troubling. Boston continues to play sloppy. They committed 18 turnovers in Game 5, compared to seven for Golden State, which led to 22 points for the Warriors. They missed 10 of their 31 free throws. They gave up 50 points in the paint.
“Now we have our backs against the wall,” said Al Horford. “And we have to see what we are made of. The challenge starts on Thursday.
Boston needs its stars to show off. Tatum’s last line of stats was solid — 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting — but he was streaky and scored just five points on 1-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter. Brown scored 18 points but needed 18 shots to do so. In the fourth quarter the Celtics had as many baskets made (four) as turnovers. “We don’t have a constant effort, a sustained effort,” said Ime Udoka.
They will need it. Curry doesn’t have the kind of high-profile superstar by his side that he’s had in previous seasons, but he has help. Draymond Green had arguably his best game of the series, Payton and Jordan Poole punched the Warriors off the bench and Thompson, who has made 41% of his threes in the last three games, looks sharper from day by day.
And there’s Wiggins. Once, Wiggins looked set to be immortalized among the NBA’s best busts. Now he’s one win away from helping a team win a championship. Late Monday, Green was asked why Wiggins fit in so well.
“[Tom Thibodeau] told us that Jimmy [Butler] loved it,” Green said, citing Wiggins’ time in Minnesota. “And we all know how Jimmy Butler is. If you have any sweetness in you, Jimmy doesn’t like you. … He took on all the challenges we threw at him, and that’s huge. We need him to do this for one more win.
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