On November 9, 2015, the Minnesota Timberwolves surprised the Hawks at Philips Arena by pulling off a 117-107 victory. They did it mostly with young talent, including rookie Karl-Anthony Towns and second year player Zach LaVine. However, another player in his second season had the best game of all: shooting guard Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins had a career high 33 points, scoring efficiently and in style.
Wiggins hustled for his first basket, running the floor and taking a pass from Ricky Rubio for the layup. Later, he was in just the right place to follow a Kevin Martin miss and slam home the rebound for a 14-6 Minnesota lead. A Wiggins hesitation dribble followed by a spin move led to his layup to make the score 19-8. After the game, Wiggins would admit: “I was feeling it.”
The Canadian guard sat for the first few minutes of the second quarter, but that didn’t ruin his rhythm. Wiggins backed down his man before swishing a fallaway jumper just outside the paint. Then, he played give-and-go with Kevin Garnett for another midrange hoop. When Garnett later missed a shot, Wiggins was there for the follow. The Hawks appeared to be cruising to victory by halftime. Wiggins put the exclamation point on things by cruising to his right through traffic and sinking the 20-footer for a 67-40 lead.
This game was a roller coaster ride all around: Minnesota led by 30 in the third quarter only to give it all away. For comparison, the largest halftime lead ever possessed by a losing team is 34 points, a mark set in 1996 during a game between the Jazz and Nuggets. Minnesota scored just 21 points in the third quarter, but Wiggins made a three-pointer and slammed home a dunk on his way to 9 of those.
With just over 3 minutes left in the game, Atlanta had rallied to take a 107-106 advantage before Wiggins willed himself to the hoop for the basket and the foul. Wiggins made Kent Bazemore look silly on a step-back jumper to build the Minnesota lead to 4, then made another acrobatic shot 30 seconds later as Bazemore fouled him. The Wolves led 113-107 with under a minute to go and had survived the critical final stretch.
“My teammates kept encouraging me, giving me the ball,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins produced highlights even when he wasn’t scoring. In the first minute of the game, Bazemore attempted a layup which Wiggins blocked. The ball would find its way into the hands of Towns. Later, he stripped the ball from Jeff Teague and found Rubio for the hoop. That was one of Wiggins’ four assists; he also pulled down five rebounds for the night.
When asked to explain the wild game, Wiggins replied: “Any team down is going to come back fighting.”
What did we learn from this dominant performance? There is ample opportunity for Wiggins to prove himself on such a young roster, and he is determined to take full advantage of that.
Wiggins shot 15-22, good for 68% from the field. He also played 38 minutes which was the most of anyone in the game. All this from a player who was still 20 years of age when the game was played. Wiggins still has some work ahead on the defensive end, but fans in Minneapolis are already excited about what he and Towns could accomplish in the seasons to come.
photo via llananba