Take a bow, Andrew Wiggins.
The former no. 1 pick played like the can’t-miss prospect he was touted to be coming out of Kansas in 2014. After a 17-point, 16-rebound effort in Game 4, Wiggins outdid himself Monday night with 26 points and 13 rebounds—and was by far the best player on the floor. He paced the Warriors with seven points in the first quarter, as they jumped out to an early 27-16 lead. And he put the hammer down in the fourth with 10 points while playing suffocating defense on Jayson Tatum (1-for-5 and a couple of airballs in the 4th).
As a long-time Wiggins fan, watching the game felt like watching your child graduate from a prestigious university with honors (or at least how I’d imagine it to be; sorry, kids, but the bar is best-player-on-a-Finals-game high). His Minnesota days were maddening because he’d go on streaks when he’d play like he’s at least as good as Jayson Tatum or Devin Booker, then he’ll disappear for weeks and leave you wondering “WTF happened?” He was too inconsistent to become a superstar but he showed enough glimpses that it seemed foolhardy to dismiss him as a bust. He made the All-Star team in his second full year with Golden State, but I always felt that Steve Kerr was not maximizing his offensive skills. On an off-night by Steph Curry and in what has been a rough shooting series for Klay Thompson, Kerr had little choice but to unleash Wiggs on offense in Game 5—and, finally, my vision of the best version of the Warriors is realized.
My favorite play from Game 5 was Wiggins serving up a Tim Horton-version of Michael Jordan’s “spectacular move.” Since everything is more polite in Canada, it wasn’t quite as nasty as MJ’s switch-hand layup, but a “gorgeous move” nonetheless as Mike Breen put it.
Now that’s what I’m talking aboot!
Dubs’ “Core Three”
Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green became the first trio to win 20 NBA Finals games together in the last 30 years. They moved past the win tally of San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. That’s some rarefied air, but perhaps what’s even more impressive is that the Dubs’ core reached the milestone in a span of seven years, whereas the Spurs’ Big Three needed 11 seasons.
Since the 1980s, only the Showtime trio of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper won more—22 games over eight Finals appearances and five rings.
Before Game 5, renowned Klay Thompson impersonator Dawson Gurley revealed that he got banned for life from the Chase Center after he walked past five layers of security and was able to shoot around on the court for 10 minutes.
A Warriors spokesperson has since confirmed that the team has banned the individual who “falsely impersonated a Warriors player in a deliberate attempt to access unauthorized areas within Chase Center.”
Gurley claims that the ban would cost him $10,000 on tickets. Normally, this would land him in the “losers” column, but he says it was all worth it for 10 minutes on an NBA Finals floor. It also sounds like something straight out of an unproduced Mission Impossible x Semi-Pro screenplay, so I’m giving Fake Klay a win for having balls of steel to pull off the stunt.
Jayson Tatum’s 2012 tweet
Not only did Wiggins outplay Tatum on both ends down the stretch, but ESPN reminded us that then-high school frosh Tatum thought Jabari Parker was better than Wiggins.
Parker, a one-and-done Duke product like Tatum, is already out of the NBA at age 27. Ironically, the last city he played for was Boston, which cut him in January. So, yeah, saying that the tweet didn’t age well is putting it kindly.
A bit of history lesson: Parker was formerly the no. 1 prospect of the high school class of 2013, while Wiggins was the no. 1 of the 2014 recruiting class. However, when Wiggins reclassified to 2013, ESPN instantly moved him atop. Tatum’s tweet was timestamped a day after the ESPN story was published, so it’s safe to assume this was what prompted young Tatum’s tweet. (Ultimately though, neither Wiggins nor Parker would end up as the best player of their class—that would be two-time MVP runner-up and Wiggins’s former Kansas teammate Joel Embiid.)
The Celtics didn’t lose the game because of poor officiating—Maple Jordan and Boston’s 18 turnovers were the bigger factors. But there were some pretty dubious calls that shouldn’t be happening at this level.
Unfortunately, the NBA would probably offset bad officiating with… bad officiating. The referee assignments wouldn’t be announced until the morning of Game 6, but everybody is making the same joke after the Dubs won Game 5: the league would tap the notorious Scott Foster (yes, Chris Paul’s Scott Foster) for the next game. Foster is nicknamed “The Extender” by fans and gamblers for his supposed tendency to give a favorable whistle to the team trailing in a series.
Steph’s record streaks
It’s an L that Steph would gladly take because his team got the W and will now have two chances to secure their fourth title in eight years, but it’s worth mentioning that his NBA-record streak of 132 consecutive playoff games with at least one made three-pointer ended last night. His 0-for-9 outing also snapped 233 straight NBA games (combined regular season and playoffs) with a three-point make, as well as 38 consecutive playoff games with multiple threes (both NBA records).
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. (h/t Dr. Seuss)