SAN FRANCISCO – By now, you’ve heard all about Stephen Curry’s incendiary Game 4 performance at TD Garden.
But let’s take a moment to recognize teammate Andrew Wiggins, who leaps into the No. 5 position in today’s edition of our 2022 Race to the NBA Finals MVP Ladder after snatching a career-high 16 boards in Game 4. In doing so, he became the first Golden State Warrior since Nate Thurmond in 1967 to finish with at least 17 points and 16 rebounds in an NBA Finals contest.
“I just know last game they had outrebounded us and got all the offensive rebounds,” he said. “Just wanted to come in and be aggressive on the boards and try to help out.”
Wiggins churned out such monstrous production in what we can safely bill as the most significant outing of his career in helping Golden State even the Finals at 2-2 heading back home for Game 5.
Let’s also take into account the former No. 1 overall pick’s impact on the defensive end, where he’s often tasked with slowing down Celtics superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
“Wiggs was fantastic,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “To go against Boston, you’ve got to deal with Tatum and Brown, and they are just powerful, skilled players. They are coming downhill at you constantly.”
Yet Wiggins keeps making it an uphill battle for the duo to produce when Boston needs it most.
In four games matched head-to-head against Tatum in this series, Wiggins has limited the forward to 34 points on 13-for-39 shooting, while Brown has scored just seven on 2-for-8 shooting when guarded by the Canadian.
The 27-year-old finished plus-20 and grabbed six of his rebounds in the decisive fourth quarter.
“Wiggs has done what he’s done all playoffs: make it tough for the opposing starter to score” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “[He] rebounded the hell out of the ball, which he’s done all playoffs long.”
And now, the Top 5 in our 2022 Race to the NBA Finals MVP Ladder after Game 4:
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
NBA Finals stats: 34.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.8 apg
What can we say that we haven’t already regarding Curry’s near-flawless Game 4 performance? We saw where this was headed early when the point guard nailed an early 3 that forced a Celtics timeout. That just carried over into a 14-point third quarter, then an uber-efficient final frame as Golden State embarked on a 17-3 run over the final five minutes. You could legitimately argue that Curry has already won NBA Finals MVP just four games into this series. But of course, we’ve still got to let this play out on the court as we step back into the thick of this dogfight of an NBA Finals on Monday at Chase Center.
2. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
NBA Finals stats: 22.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.8 apg
Usually aggressive, Brown took his first shot of the night with 7:31 left in the opening quarter and finished with just two points before scoring 10 in the second quarter. Brown eclipsed the 500-point mark in the 2022 NBA playoffs, but he produced just nine points on 4-for-11 shooting in the second half of what was a blown opportunity for Boston. Brown attempted to attack down the stretch, but the Celtics need more from both him and Tatum as the series moves back to San Francisco. “Nights like tonight, it’s tough to take a loss on our home floor,” Brown said.
3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
NBA Finals stats: 22.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 7.8 apg
We’ve seen it in flashes, but colleague Shaun Powell notes that Boston is still waiting for the emergence of the superstar who shined in the previous three rounds of the playoffs. In the second half of the first four games, Tatum is minus-19 while averaging 8.3 points on 26.5% from the floor and 21.4% from 3-point range. “At times, he’s looking for fouls,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “They are a team that loads up in certain games. He’s finding outlets, shooting over two, three guys.” Tatum also committed six turnovers in Game 4, and he’s averaging 3.5 in this series.
4. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
NBA Finals stats: 17.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
Thompson joined Curry and Green in winning 19 career NBA Finals contests to match San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for the most Finals victories by any trio over the last 50 seasons. Thompson and Curry (18 points) nearly outscored the entire Celtics roster (19 points) in the fourth quarter as they combined to hit 5-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from deep. Defensively, Thompson just simply couldn’t be beaten off the dribble down the stretch. “To be out there and competing at this stage, like, wow, I can’t believe I’m here considering where I was at this time last year,” Thompson said.
5. Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
NBA Finals stats: 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 apg
Give Wiggins credit for helping the Warriors improve to 2-13 all-time in the playoffs in Boston as they secured their first postseason win on the Celtics’ home floor since 1960. If you haven’t noticed by now, Golden State’s fortunes seem largely dependent on how Wiggins performs. In Game 3, Boston crushed the Warriors on the boards (47-31) with the forward producing just seven rebounds in a 116-100 loss. In Game 4, his 13 defensive rebounds helped the Warriors limit the Celtics to 12 second-chance points, compared to his own team’s 19.
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