Is Wiggins exceeding his expectations after long absence?


SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew Wiggins through the first four games of the Warriors' first-round playoff series against the Sacramento Kings is averaging 19.3 points on 49.2 percent shooting from the field and is grabbing 5.8 rebounds. 

All after missing the previous two months of Warriors games tending to a family matter. 

During the 37 games he played in the regular season, Wiggins averaged 17.1 points on 47.3 percent shooting and came down with 5.0 rebounds a night. So, is this where Wiggins expected his game to be following such a long layoff? Or is he exceeding his own expectations?

"I just wanted to come back and feel like I never left," Wiggins said Tuesday after Warriors practice. "I feel like the coaching staff and training staff, they got me right. They made sure I was ready for when I stepped on the court to play the game that I know how to play."

That means being a two-way presence, affecting wins offensively and defensively. Steph Curry (31.5) and Klay Thompson (20.3) are the only two Warriors averaging more points than Wiggins in the series. They also are the only two playing more minutes than him. Wiggins now is playing 34.8 minutes per game. Curry is at 39.5 and Thompson is at 37.1. 

Kevon Looney (12.5) and Draymond Green (7.7) are the only two Warriors averaging more rebounds than Wiggins. Nobody has swatted away more shots. 

Wiggins already has nine blocks in the series, giving him an average of 2.3 per game. He blocked four in his first game back, and also four in the Warriors' one-point nail-biter of a Game 4 win on Sunday. 

From ejections, suspensions, technical fouls and bodies hitting the floor, this already has been an extremely physical battle. And Wiggins is all for that. 

Loose balls, 50/50 possessions and crashing the glass. The 28-year-old takes pride in the little things that equal championships.

"For sure," Wiggins said. "It's competitive and I'm a competitor. I want to win. Whatever I have to do to win, I'm going to do it to help my team. I feel like the playoffs brings out the best in everybody." 

Especially Wiggins.

At 6-foot-7 and right around 200 pounds, he's sculpted to play basketball. He's one of the best athletes in the game and used that to his advantage last season when it mattered most. Wiggins averaged 7.5 rebounds per game in the playoffs a year ago on the way to the Warriors' title, much better than what's now his career regular-season average of 4.5 rebounds. 

The Warriors last season were 9-2 in playoff games Wiggins had seven or more rebounds. In the Warriors' Game 3 win Thursday night, he had exactly seven rebounds. Then in their Game 4 win, Wiggins added eight. 

"We are thrilled to have him back, obviously," Steve Kerr said Tuesday. "We have to have him at both ends to win. It's great to have him." 

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Kerr did his best to not have expectations for Wiggins' return. He did admit, however, that the way Wiggins has come back is "pretty remarkable." 

Now with the series all tied at two wins apiece and headed back to Sacramento for Wednesday night's Game 5, Wiggins will continue having the tough assignment of guarding Kings star guard De'Aaron Fox. Fractured left index finger or not, Fox is a problem for any team, including the Warriors. 

Fox is putting up 31.5 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game against the Warriors in this first-round matchup. The left-hander is making 44.7 percent of his shots overall and 34.2 percent of his 3-pointers. His quickness is unmatched and his shot-making ability has skyrocketed. 

"It's tough," Wiggins said. "He's a really good player. Making shots, he's getting to his spot -- he's a good player. It's a team effort, it's not all on one guy. Just got to continue doing what we're doing. 

"He's a tough player, he's gonna make some tough shots. He's gonna make some tough plays. All you can do is stay at and stay aggressive on that side, on defense." 

Thus far, Wiggins has guarded Fox for a little more than 18 minutes. Fox has scored 28 points on 34.5 percent shooting (10 of 29). Wiggins has forced three Fox turnovers and has blocked his shot three times.

The clash will continue. 

"He just brings a different dynamic to our team," Jordan Poole says of Wiggins. "Offensively, defensively, energy wise -- that's why we signed him back. He's such a big part of our team, and we're gonna need him to play the way he's been playing if we want to make a run."

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