Sunday evening’s contest between the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves showcased two teams with the most promising young cores. D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle will likely battle against the Timberwolves for years to come. Yet, on Sunday night with Zach LaVine out and Karl-Anthony Towns having an off-night, Andrew Wiggins was the star that shone brightest.
Wiggins 47 points, four rebounds, and three assists made for his finest game as a pro yet. In stepping up, Wiggins took 22 free throws and finished 2-for-5 on 3-pointers to punish the Lakers inside and out.
“We couldn’t keep him off the line. He shot 22 free throws, something like that and you let a player as good as him get an additional 22 free chances at it… one, he’s going to score a lot and two, he’s going to get hot because he’s in a rhythm from all the free throws he’s shooting,” lamented Lakers coach Luke Walton. “We couldn’t really contain him tonight.”
What stands out most from the game is the efficiency. Wiggins was 14-for-21 from the field and 17-for-22 from the free throw line. Wiggins has continued his trend of becoming more efficient, including an absurd 54.8 percent on 3-pointers. Whether or not Wiggins can sustain that efficiency from deep remains to be seen but his shot looks better.
This change has Wiggins noticing defenses playing him differently. He said after the game that defenders have stopped going under on screens for him and are generally playing him closer. Sunday night showed why Wiggins is so dangerous this season.
“I’m finding myself. I’m finding things I’m good at, things I need to work on,” said Wiggins. “The game’s just slowed down for me a little bit. I’m able to read defenses, how people are playing me and how the defense is set.”
Finally, we saw Wiggins elevate his game against a mediocre team. Wiggins has been criticized for elevating his game for big matchups against teams like Cleveland but was noticeably a different player against weaker opponents. Wiggins had his explosion on Sunday night which topped his previous career high in points that he set in Brooklyn just last week. Should Wiggins continue this level of play every night, it’s only going to make him and the team harder to beat.
With all the promising young talent on the floor on Sunday, it wouldn’t have been surprising to have a few great performances. Andrew Wiggins’ masterpiece stood out far and away as the greatest of them all.