But – and it’s easy to forget amid his struggles since the All-Star break – his play on the court early in the season made him a legitimate All-Star candidate.
Wiggins returned to that form Wednesday, scoring 19 points and diligently defending Luka Doncic to help the Warriors beat the Mavericks 112-87 in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
As Dallas dismantled the elite Suns and Golden State struggled to put away the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies in the second round, sentiment turned. Dallas became a trendy NBA Finals pick, including by plenty of sharp analysts.
But this lopsided result establishes the Warriors as clear favorite in this series, if not to win the championship. Though momentum could shift back as soon as Game 2 Friday, Golden State did so much to reassure doubters.
Wednesday, the celebration began early in the third quarter, when Stephen Curry (21 points) hit a 3-pointer to cap a 10-0 run that ended the game’s competitive portion. Then, he danced:
Dancing Steph has arrived 🕺😂pic.twitter.com/EV3nWUjBif
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 19, 2022
Though focus is on Curry’s shot and jig, what happened just before was far more emblematic.
First, Curry threw a ridiculous backward overhead pass that was recovered by the Warriors.
The Mavericks aren’t the Grizzlies, whose athleticism and aggressiveness cause a lot of turnovers. Memphis feasted on Golden State’s trademark sloppiness. Dallas’ defense, while effective, is more sound than attacking. The Warriors’ committed just 15 turnovers tonight – fewer than in any game against the Grizzlies.
Then, Curry sprinted past a screen, leaving his defender in the dust.
As well as Dallas defended Phoenix’s strong offense, Golden State presents a different challenge. The Warriors forced the Mavericks to cover so much more ground. That started in transition, repeatedly getting the ball ahead. Within the halfcourt, Golden State cuts and moves the ball far more actively than the Suns do.
Curry is the Warriors’ superstar. He led them in scoring tonight. He shined a brighter spotlight himself with his dance.
But this was a full team effort – defensively and offensively.
Though Wiggins took the primary assignment on Doncic (20 points on 6-of-18 shooting with four assists and seven turnovers), he of course had plenty of help.
Draymond Green was everywhere defensively. Just a gem of a performance by him.
The Warriors frequently switch. They also threw Doncic off rhythm with a zone and even a box-and-one. And they made Doncic work on the other end..
Wiggins scored 17 points in his first 19 minutes of playing time, frequently targeting Doncic. Wiggins eased off only after Golden State blew the game open early in the second half.
Jordan Poole (19 points on 8-of-12 shooting) was a big part of the Warriors using their speed and movement to keep Dallas’ defense a step behind.
Kevon Looney (10 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four assists and two blocks) justified Golden State’s decision to make him the fifth starter.
After a rough start, Klay Thompson (15 points on 7-of-13 shooting) eventually got cooking. Once the game became uncompetitive. But with enough time to feel better entering Game 2.
For the opposite reason, the Mavericks can feel somewhat hopeful. They shot just 23% on 3-pointers (11-for-48) despite frequently producing good looks from beyond the arc. Keep taking those shots, and a higher-percentage will fall. Dallas has good shooters.
But the Warriors have a team that once again looks complete, the confidence that comes from a 25-point beatdown of a good foe and a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.