SAN FRANCISCO – After watching oft-languid Andrew Wiggins put on perhaps his most spirited and best performance since joining the Warriors, Stephen Curry is ready to activate a motivation ploy.
Curry used his cell phone to deliver a message to his teammate with a picture of Wiggins driving the baseline, rising above 7-foot Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and throwing down a resounding dunk that compelled the sellout crowd (18,064) to shake the still-settling foundation of Chase Center.
“I’m going to need that one on my wall, tell you that much,” Curry said Wednesday night, after a 123-110 victory. “I’m going to text Wiggs that picture of him dunking on KAT every game, right before the game, to see if that helps get the juices flowing. So, he’s got 72 text messages from me coming his way.”
Curry likely was joking. If not, he might be onto something that would be very precious to the Warriors: Unlocking more consistent passion from the emotionally enigmatic Wiggins.
For it was a forceful Wiggins who played a statistically perfect first half and followed it with an imperfect second half. No doubt Curry and the Warriors would gladly sacrifice the flawlessness if it means Wiggins would display that disposition with greater frequency.
Which is to suggest they’d like it if Wiggins, who scored a season-high 35 points on 14-of-19 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep, were to make a habit of bringing the fight to teams other than the one that traded him away.
It’s no coincidence that Wiggins, after slumbering through considerable portions of the first 10 games this season, awakened his inner beast against the Timberwolves, the franchise with which he spent the first five-plus seasons of this NBA career.
Wiggins so effectively dominated the game with his offense that it overshadowed his, um, profoundly imperfect defense. He was 9-of-9 shooting in the first half, and went into the locker room with 22 points, more than doubling the scoring of any teammate.
“He’s capable of doing that,” Curry said. “He’s got all the physical presence and skill set to impact the game like that on the offensive end; on the defensive end, he does it. It was obviously an efficient night. He saw some familiar faces on the other side. It got him going.
“You obviously don’t expect a damn near perfect night like that every night. But the intentions and the energy and just the aggressiveness from start to finish, you would love to see that. It gives us a whole (different) look.”
Wiggins did more than his part to hang a loss on his former team. He got ordinary buckets. He got soaring, highlight-reel slam-dunk buckets. He got the goodnight bucket, a 3-ball that pushed the score to 116-103 with 2:31 remaining.
That was not enough. Wiggins came back 28 seconds later and pushed the Timberwolves out of the door and toward the bus.
“Andrew was fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The aggression from the beginning of the game. Loved his energy. Obviously, he was pretty excited to play against his old team. And we needed everything he brought us – the scoring, the running the floor, getting to the foul line and knocking down 3s. He was tremendous.”
This was, as a longtime NFL coach used to say, a “rainbow game” from Wiggins.
“Playing against your former team are always the games that you wake up and get excited for,” Wiggins said. “You want to do good. And, most importantly, you want to win. That’s the main thing. We won and had fun doing it.”
Wiggins is not a rainbow, but at his very best, he has much in common with those beautiful bands of color.
You don’t see one every day, or every week, and you can’t create one. But on those occasions when it appears, it’s quite the spectacle.