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NBA Finals: The Rising Profile of Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins was the hero for the Golden State Warriors in a pivotal Game 5 NBA Finals victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night. The All-Star, on both ends of the hardwood, provided massive contributions and helped to fill the void left by an off-night from Steph Curry. Wiggins played 43 minutes and scored 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting, leading the team. He also added 13 rebounds to pick up his second consecutive double-double. The defining image of this game was not Curry sinking a shot from distance but Wiggins bustling to the basket and crashing down a dunk to hand the Warriors a 15-point lead with about two minutes remaining. Ably assisted by Jordan Poole (14 points) and Klay Thompson (21 points)

Andrew Wiggins WENT OFF in Game 5 😤 — SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 14, 2022

Proving His Mettle Quite unassuming, the 27-year-old Canadian was selected first overall in the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers and promptly traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves when LeBron James took his talents back to Ohio. He was sent from the Wolves to the Warriors in 2020, and now is unleashing his deepest potentials and also on the brink of his first NBA championship. Long accused of being too timid to live up to the pressure of his first pick status, Wiggins was merciless, impassioned, effective and emphatic as the Celtics lost back-to-back games for the first time in this season’s playoffs.

Andrew Wiggins this Finals: — More PPG than Klay — Leads both teams in rebounds — Leads both teams in shots contested — 2nd in blocks — Holding Tatum to 37.5% shooting — StatMuse (@statmuse) June 14, 2022

He also impressed in last Friday’s 107-97 Warriors win, with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, though was overshadowed by Curry’s extraordinary production: 43 points, 10 rebounds and an uncountable number of mouth-guard chews. Turnovers: Bane of the Celtics Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Smart added 20 points and Jaylen Brown scored 18 points but shot just 5-of-18. The main culprits — a horrid fourth quarter in which the Celtics shot 4-of-15 and Wiggins bullied his way to 10 of his points and turnovers. Again. This time Boston coughed it up 18 times, falling to 0-7 in these playoffs when committing at least 15 turnovers. Tatum, Brown and Smart combined for 13 of the turnovers — all three of them played at least 40 minutes.

The Warriors scored 22 points off 18 Celtics' turnovers in Game 5. The Warriors' 103 points off turnovers are the most by any team through the 1st 5 Finals games since the 1992 Bulls. h/t @EliasSports Boston is 1-7 with 16+ TO in a game this postseason (13-2 in other games) — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2022

Rising to the Occasion in the Playoffs. In a league where there is a growing separation between 82-game and 16-game players, Wiggins still had to validate himself in the playoffs. Not even a regular-season All-Star berth would satisfy in Golden State. Boston will rue their own ragged play in the fourth quarter, which began with the contest finely poised after the Celtics mounted a stunning comeback immediately after half time. But it was the all-round excellence of Wiggins that helped disrupt the visitors while ably compensating for Curry’s below-par production. “We ran them obviously a longer stretch to get back in the game in the third,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Looked like our decision making waned a little bit in the fourth. Could have been from that.” The Golden State will play a potential closeout Game 6 Thursday at the TD Garden, which also provides Boston the opportunity to even the series and the possibility of a Game 7 on the horizon at the Chase Centre.

.@alanhahn showing Andrew Wiggins praise after his Game 5 performance 👀 "He goes from a guy that some people thought might've been a No. 1 pick who was a bit spoiled and overpaid, to a guy that is a champion. He's one game away." — Get Up (@GetUpESPN) June 14, 2022
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