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What we learned as Wiggins, Dubs hold off shorthanded Nets

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Wiggins dunk

SAN FRANCISCO – With the number of available players down to 10 Saturday night, it was logical to believe big nights from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would be the Warriors’ surest path to triumph.

Nope.

It was the supporting cast, led by first-time All-Star Andrew Wiggins, that provided the energy and production that led to an uneven 110-106 victory over a Brooklyn Nets team that was without Kevin Durant or James Harden.

Though Thompson arrived in the clutch, draining a 3-pointer and two free throws inside the final 13 seconds to secure the win, it was Wiggins scoring a team-high 24 points to anchor the offense.

Aside from the final six minutes of the third quarter, when the Nets went on a 20-4 run, the Warriors played wonderful defense, limiting Brooklyn to 39.8-percent shooting from the field.

Here are three observations as the Warriors (37-13) closed out a seven-game homestand with a 6-1 record:

Wiggins to critics: Back off

The announcement this week that Wiggins was voted in as a starter for the Feb. 20 All-Star Game came as a surprise to many, and some expressed doubt that he was deserving of the honor. 

He undoubtedly heard the chatter and apparently decided to take this nationally televised opportunity to respond on the court. Immediately.

Wiggins’ first quarter was scripted straight from the “Go Out There and Show ‘Em” playbook: 14 points (6-of-9 from the field, 2-of-3 from distance), including a highlight-reel follow slam, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Simultaneously aggressive and prudent, Wiggins torched both bigger and smaller defenders, moving the ball if someone had a better path to scoring. His 24 points came on 10-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-8 from distance. He added eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

 

Though he surely benefits from being a member of the globally popular Warriors, Wiggins’ individual performance was impressive enough to convince at least some doubters that he deserves to be in Cleveland next month.

Supporting cast shines

Curry played 35 minutes and Thompson played 27, the two combining for 35 points on 10-of-32 shooting. They spent most of the night serving better as decoys rather than assets.

Their teammates had their back.

The other eight Warriors, led by Wiggins, came together and played smart, spirited basketball at both ends. They used the first half to set a tone and showcased their depth throughout against the stubborn Nets.

Otto Porter Jr. was outstanding, with16 points, five rebounds and four blocks. Jordan Poole finished with 17 points and six assists. Kevon Looney had 13 rebounds. Gary Payton II played tremendous defense. Nine of the 10 Warriors scored, with Damion Lee being the only exception.

The success of the supporting cast in a game when Curry and Thompson struggled to score builds the kind of confidence the Warriors are going to need from time to time and will come in handy in the playoffs.

Size over scrap

The Warriors are among the smallest teams in the league, and there is no indication that will change anytime soon. Sometimes, they have enough to offset the lack of size. Other times, they’re bound to get clobbered.

On this night, they were punished and it nearly cost them.

After building a 19-point lead in the third quarter, Golden State saw it dissipate under the scoring and playmaking of Kyrie Irving – as well as second-chance points by the Nets.

With 6-foot-11 LaMarcus Aldridge leading the glass-banging, Brooklyn scored nine second-chance points in the quarter, including two put-back layups inside the final 33 seconds to come within two.
Brooklyn finished 17 offensive rebounds and a 25-15 advantage in second-chance points.