Warriors

Why Wiggins' 40-point night without Steph was so significant

Warriors
Andrew Wiggins shooting against Grizzlies

Andrew Wiggins has been as steady-handed as they come this season for the Warriors. 

But without Steph Curry on Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State needed more than just consistency from Wiggins. They needed him to take charge of the game. 

He did just that, putting up a season-high 40 points on 14-of-24 shooting, including six 3-pointers, to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in the Warriors' 116-103 win

This was Wiggins' largest scoring game since becoming a Warrior last February and he scored career-high 27 points in the first half alone. 

"With Steph out, Andrew had the ball in his hands a lot more," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame. "We ran a lot of pick-and-roll for him and he took advantage of his opportunities and got hot and really changed the game in that second quarter."

Wiggins knew he needed to be more aggressive with Curry not being out there. And he knew he needed to play as close to 48 minutes as he could.

"Steph is a big part of this team. He's what makes the team go," Wiggins said. "With him being out, everyone had to step up. I just tried to be aggressive from the start ... I just tried to fill in as much as I could and do what I can to help the team go."

The Warriors have never asked Wiggins to be the leading scorer and star of this team -- at least this season. It's a new job for him, and completely different than what was asked of him in Minnesota. 

 

So far this season, he has played more off the ball and is used as a primary defender but secondary or third scorer. So taking on Curry's role was a change. 

"I just tried to get into a good rhythm," Wiggins said. "We have a lot of guys on this team who can do a lot. So, it's not too much pressure on me to do a lot on the court, because we still have Draymond (Green), we got Kelly (Oubre), we got (Jordan Poole). We got guys who can get going and change the game in a lot of different ways."

The fire power potential the Warriors have was on full display in Memphis, with Poole finishing with 25 points, Damion Lee scoring 21 and Kevon Looney notching a season-high 11 points. Green scored just two points, but was +24 with 11 rebounds, 13 assists, one steal and two blocks.

Wiggins' consistency has never dropped this season. He has finished in double-digit scoring in all but one game. But toward the end of the first half of the season, his efficiency started to drop. He was putting up the same amount of points, but it took him much longer to get there. 

By the time the All-Star break rolled around, he needed it. 

"He was definitely tired before the break. I don't know if he's missed a game," Kerr said. "He's one of those guys you can count on night in and night out. He guards the toughest players and he plays 35 minutes, whatever it is. So I think he was pretty tired right before the break. He needed that rest. He's looked fantastic since the break."

Through five games since the break, Wiggins has had games of 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting, 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting, and then his 40-pointer against the Grizzlies.

RELATED: Kerr says Steph is "very doubtful" for Saturday's game

On Friday night Wiggins moved with ease, beating defenders off the dribble, knocking down fadeaway jumpers and weaving his way into the paint. He even got a thunderous put-back dunk in the second quarter off a missed Green bucket. 

Perhaps the most encouraging sign of Wiggins' performance is that there's now evidence someone can pick up the slack for Curry when he's not playing, or having a quiet night when he is. 

The Warriors have struggled to get Curry the on-court support he needs this season to carry the Warriors through tough games, but if Wiggins can turn up his consistent scoring of 15 points per game to 20, the team could be well on its way.

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