The spotlight is obviously on Steph Curry for his sensational effort in the Warriors’ come-from-behind win on Friday night.
But even Curry couldn’t do it all by himself, and perhaps no one was more vital in Game 4 — and, really, all playoffs long – than Andrew Wiggins.
In the biggest game of his life, Wiggins grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, added 17 points and played sturdy defense to help Golden State pull off the 107-97 win and even the NBA Finals at two games apiece.
“Wiggs was fantastic,” Steve Kerr said. “To go against Boston, you’ve got to deal with Tatum and Brown, and they are just powerful, skilled players. Great size. They are coming downhill at you constantly, so we had to have Wiggs out there. I thought he was great defensively.”
That defensive effort proved especially impactful given Draymond Green’s struggles on the night. Kerr likely couldn’t have benched Green for a nearly four-minute stretch of the fourth quarter if he didn’t have Wiggins, who played a game-high 43 minutes and 26 seconds.
“Wiggs has done what he’s done all playoffs,” Green said. “Make it tough for the opposing starter to score.”
But it’s the rebounding effort that is so noteworthy — and so stunning, compared to his career. Prior to Friday night, the most rebounds Wiggins had grabbed in a single game was 11.
He had 11 in just the second half on Friday.
“I just know last game, they had, you know, out-rebounded us, and you know, got all the offensive rebounds. Today just wanted to come in and be aggressive on the boards and try to help out.”
His per-game rebounding average has steadily risen during the playoffs, too:
Andrew Wiggins rebounds per game
2021-22 regular season: 4.5
First round vs. Denver: 6.8
Conference semis vs. Memphis: 7.0
Conference finals vs. Dallas: 7.2
NBA Finals vs. Boston: 8.5
It’s a clear sign that, as the postseason has gone on and the games have gotten bigger, it seems like Wiggins has gotten more and more comfortable — and taken his game to another level.
For the 27-year-old, the reason for the increased rebounding effort is simple.
“I want to win,” Wiggins said. “I know rebounding is a big part of that. I just want to win. And I feel like sometimes we play small. So I just try to go in there and rebound, help the team out.”
He’s done all of that and more. While Curry would be the easy choice for NBA Finals MVP if the Warriors can win this series, it’s clear that Wiggins is the Warriors’ second-best player so far in these Finals.
“We needed every bit of Wiggs’ contributions,” Kerr said.