SAN FRANCISCO — When Andrew Wiggins was traded to the Warriors from the Timberwolves during the 2019-20 season, he pictured himself playing alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green under the guidance of Steve Kerr in meaningful games in the playoffs.
“Since I’ve been in the NBA when you think of Golden State, all you think about is winning,” the 2014 first overall pick said. “That’s just how it’s been.”
Wiggins arrived amid a pandemic-disrupted season when the Warriors missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Golden State failed to make the postseason again the following year, when they were sent home at the hands of the Grizzlies during the play-in tournament.
But finally, after 167 games donning the Warriors’ array of black, white, blue and gold uniforms, Wiggins is playing on his biggest stage yet, the Western Conference finals, and has risen to the occasion in each round of the playoffs so far.
“Andrew is in a really good groove,” Kerr said Wednesday night after the Warriors took Game 1, beating the Mavericks 112-87. “He’s comfortable, he’s confident, he believes in himself, he believes in the team and what we’re doing.”
Before the playoffs started, Wiggins told NBC Sports Bay Area that the postseason is “where you get remembered for what you do and how you play.”
His assessment of his playoff showing?
“I feel like I’ve been pretty solid but can still do more, help the team more,” Wiggins said.
That was after practice Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Wiggins played a key role in stopping Luka Dončić en route to the Warriors winning Game 1 and bringing Golden State just three wins from the NBA Finals.
Wiggins’ dogged defense against Dončić made every possession for the Mavericks star difficult. Wiggins, who previously said he liked the challenge of guarding the opponent’s best offensive weapon, pressed Dončić at full court at times and fought over screens to stay in front of the 23-year-old.
“I’m still young, I don’t really get too tired,” Wiggins said with a wide grin. “I’m locked in, I’m motivated, and when you see it work or I feel like it’s helping us play better, it just motivates me to do it more… It’s adrenaline, I just feel good.”
The Warriors kept Dončić to a postseason-low 20 points, limiting him to just 1-of-6 shooting for two points in the entire second half. And Wiggins played a big role in stopping Dončić.
“Dončić is as difficult a cover as there is in this league and we just asked Wiggs to try to hound him and guard him as best as he could, stay in front and try to keep the pressure on him, and he did a fantastic job,” Kerr said. “Wiggs is just a huge part of our defense and our team.”
Wiggins also led the Warriors in scoring in the first half with 15 points. He finished with 19, one shy of tying his playoff career-high, and hit three 3-pointers in the first half to match his single-game high this postseason set…
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