It has gotten to the point now that when Andrew Wiggins is in attack mode late in a close game, the first thing he looks at when he gets the ball is not the fellow guarding him.
He’s past that.
“I’m looking past the defender guarding me and looking at the guy at the rim,” Wiggins said. “Seeing how I’m going to finish over him.”
Wiggins said this after scoring 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter of Monday’s 100-95 victory over Philadelphia. Wiggins is 11th in the league in scoring (22.3). But in crunch time, he becomes even more productive. Entering Wednesday’s game with Atlanta, Wiggins ranked sixth in clutch scoring, defined as the last five minutes of a game where the score is within five points. In such situations, Wiggins has played 45 minutes, going 13-for-32 in shooting, making 16 of 20 free throws and scored 43 points. That’s nearly a point a minute.
“I can’t tell you what he’s seeing,” guard Zach LaVine said. “But from what I’m seeing, he’s not worried about his defender.”
In those clutch situations, Wiggins has a .451 usage rating. The state is a metric that estimates the percentage of his team’s possessions a player uses, in an effort to gauge how much impact a player is having. Wiggin’s total in these situations is very high.
Wiggins just knows that when he’s in a zone, he’s always looking a step ahead. “I feel like if I stay aggressive on my drive, I’ll get past the person guarding me,” he said. “And I’ve got to worry about other people, the help defenders.”
As a result, opposing teams are finding a lot more to worry about.
“His athleticism stands out,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Wiggins. “So he’s always a threat to get to the paint, get to the rim, get to the free-throw line. And he has the ability to rise up and make some shots. So he just has a little bit of everything, especially when he’s making shots.”
Rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns is not one to dwell on the negative. On Monday, in a much-heralded matchup of rookie centers, Towns got two quick fouls and struggled in his matchup with Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor. Towns, in foul trouble all night, scored six points with two rebounds while Okafor scored 25 points with 12 rebounds.
Asked what he took from that game, Towns just said: “No, I’m worried about today. We got a ‘W.’ That’s all that mattered to me.”
Towns played just 22 minutes Wednesday night, scoring six points and grabbing six rebounds as coach Sam Mitchell went with Gorgui Dieng down the stretch.
• Continuing his progression from Achilles’ tendon surgery, center Nikola Pekovic began doing some two-on-none drills following practices.
• Nemanja Bjelica missed his third consecutive game because of a left knee contusion.