Andrew Wiggins has risen to the occasion before.
He has attacked the rim, poured in the points, led the Timberwolves to victory while showcasing his prodigious athletic ability. Wiggins has had games that caused people to think the light had gone on and would continue to burn bright.
Yet again, Friday.
In an overtime victory over a depleted Golden State Warriors team that was far too difficult than it should have been, Wiggins pretty much did it all. He made 17 of 33 shots, scoring 40 points. He got seven rebounds, three blocks, didn’t turn over the ball. With the Wolves’ thin at point guard he took over initiating the offense.
And he was clutch. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, scoring the points that forced overtime. In the overtime, after D’Angelo Russell had hit a three-pointer with 43.5 seconds left to pull the Warriors within a point, Wiggins answered with a three-pointer of his own, essentially icing the game.
So, is it different this time?
Perhaps. Look at the shot chart and it’s clear Wiggins has accepted and adopted coach Ryan Saunders’ system, eschewing the midrange jumper for threes and attacks at the rim. Consider that Wiggins’ play late in victories over Brooklyn, his three-point barrage at crunch time against Miami and Friday night? He’s had a huge hand in three of the Wolves’ five victories.
“You know, I expect a lot from myself,’’ Wiggins said. “And the way I’ve been playing lately, I just want to keep it up. Stay consistent. Stay aggressive.’’
Of Wiggins’ 33 shots Friday night, 22 came in the paint (including 15 in the restricted area), seven came on three-pointers and just four came from midrange.
For the season? Of Wiggins’ 165 field goal attempts, 86 have come in the paint — 58 in the restricted area — 54 have come on threes and just 25 (15.2%) have come on midrange two-pointers. Over his career, Wiggins has taken 36% of his shots from midrange.
“I feel comfortable doing it,’’ Wiggins said. “I feel like it’s working out for me. I feel good in the system. Obviously, they don’t want me taking the midrange shot. But you take what the defense gives you. If it’s there, I’m going to take it. But I’m going to try to prioritize getting to the rim more and shooting a lot more threes.’’
Wiggins said having Karl-Anthony Towns on the perimeter so much has created more space to get to the rim. As for his shot selection?
“That’s the way the NBA is going,’’ he said. “Getting more threes up — everyone from one to five can shoot threes now. So I trust in it. And, so far, it’s been working out for the most part.’’
Over his past four games Wiggins has shot 49.5% overall and 41.9 on three-pointers while averaging 29 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
“When he’s had big games before, he’s always attacked the rim,’’ Saunders said before practice Saturday. “But I think, when he’s had big games before, he’s still had heavy midrange attempts, which can also result in a number of settles. There were a number of times last night where he could have settled, but he ended up getting himself back to the three-point line or getting himself all the way to the rim. So, to me, that shows an improvement.’’