Smiling and maybe only half-joking, Andrew Wiggins offered the simplest of answers to explain why he settles for jump shots when he can take it to the rim like he did often in Sunday’s 109-103 Timberwolves victory over defending NBA champion Golden State.
“I settle sometimes,” he said. “I love my shot.”
Then he shrugged.
“I just have to stay aggressive, keep driving, putting pressure on the defense,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins complemented teammate Karl-Anthony Towns’ 31-point, 16-rebound double-double by scoring 23 points himself. Whether taking a direct path or Eurostepping his way there, Wiggins scored 15 of those 23 points on six shots within seven feet of the rim and three points on free throws.
He also made two of four three-point attempts and a 17-foot turnaround jump shot just before halftime. He scored 22 of his 23 points in the first three quarters before Towns took over in the fourth quarter by scoring 14 of his 31 points in that period.
Wiggins finished 9-for-16 from the field in a comeback victory that ended the team’s three-game losing streak, their longest this season.
The Wolves are sixth in the Western Conference going into tonight's game at Washington, 1 1/2 games ahead of four teams that are also in the battle for the eight playoff spots.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau has praised Wiggins much of the season for making what he calls “winning” plays that he didn’t make a season ago. In seven games since Jimmy Butler went down clutching his knee, Wiggins has scored 20 or more points in six of them and he has reached 20 points 30 times this season.
After Sunday’s victory over a Warriors team missing Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, among others, Thibodeau praised Wiggins for getting to the basket often.
“Andrew was great,” Thibodeau said. “Andrew was great all night.”
Then Thibodeau demanded more.
“He’s got to do it,” Thibodeau said. “It’s in him. I see it. I know he sees it. I think he’s played for the most part really well since the All-Star break. I want more. I want more aggressiveness. I want him to keep attacking. When he gets going downhill, he’s almost impossible to stop.”
Wiggins attributed Sunday’s aggressiveness to Thursday’s home loss in which he made only six of 21 shots from the field against Boston.
“My shot wasn’t really falling last game,” he said, “so I told myself to get to the rim early, get some easy ones and get going.”
Wiggins’ advice to himself was nothing that his teammates haven’t told him already.
“We tell him to quit settling, man, and get to the basket,” Wolves starting point guard Jeff Teague said after Sunday’s game. “He’s one of the best athletes in the NBA and he did that tonight and Karl was great down the stretch.”
Warriors superstar Kevin Durant outscored Towns 39-31 — even though he needed 32 shots to Towns’ 24 — in a scoring duel that went back and forth, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Towns scored eight of his team’s nine points down the stretch and praised Wiggins’ play for putting the Wolves in position to win.
“Wig has been doing a fantastic job, not only shooting the three-ball pretty well but getting in the paint and creating for his teammates,” Towns said. “He’s doing an absolutely fabulous job every time he steps on the court. Defensively, he’s doing an amazing job going after their best player night after night and making it hard on them.”
Wiggins’ defense helped limit Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson to 21 points on 8-for-22 shooting. He provided a performance that was aggressive on both ends of the court.
He was asked how he can be more consistent attacking the basket at the one end.
“Just try to find open spots, you know, stay aggressive,” Wiggins said. “Have my mind set on not settling for jump shots unless it’s there and just driving to the rim.”