Klay, Wiggs hit stride, come to JP's aid in Warriors' win


SAN FRANCISCO – Conventional wisdom suggests Jordan Poole must flourish for the Warriors to positively survive the absence of Stephen Curry. It’s not altogether wrong, but it’s only the beginning.

It’s no less imperative that Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins play at the level that has made them NBA All-Stars.

If the two veterans don’t produce, it won’t matter how well Poole plays. That much became abundantly clear over the last three games.

Thompson and Wiggins combined for an efficient 56 points Monday night at Chase Center and the Warriors overcame a dreadful start to pin a 135-126 lashing on the Washington Wizards.

Thompson scored 20 of his 27 points (10-of-21 shooting, 4-of-13 from distance) in the first half to generate some much-needed momentum, while Wiggins rang up 18 of his 29 (12-of-22, 3-of-6) in the second half to ensure this would not be another blown double-digit lead by the Warriors.

“Definitely his best game since he’s been back; he had a lot of good games early in the season,” coach Steve Kerr said of Wiggins, who returned Jan. 30 after missing 18 games over the previous eight weeks. “I loved his aggressiveness. He was attacking the rim all night and he got it going from the mid-range just got us a lot of key buckets when we were starting to fade a little bit.”

The performances of Thompson and Wiggins stood in sharp contrast to those the two offered in Golden State’s two previous games, in which they needed 76 shots – making 29 – to score 76 points. The result was predictable: two maddening losses.

Not just two losses, but losses that wasted strong performances from Poole, including Saturday night when he scored the team’s first 17 points in a tight fourth quarter of a home game eventually won by the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, Thompson and Wiggins were scoreless in the fourth quarter, combining to shoot 0-of-8 from the field.

On this night, with the Wizards trimming 14 points off what was a 20-point deficit in the final minute of the third quarter, Wiggins and Thompson answered by combining for 5-of-10 shooting in the fourth to lock it up.

When they need a spark after the first quarter, it was Thompson who set the tone. When the Warriors trailed by 13 early in the second quarter, he scored 13 points in nine minutes to pump life into the offense. With the 42 points in the quarter, Golden State took a five-point lead into halftime and never lost it.

Thompson was 7-of-14 in the half, including 3-of-8 from distance, adding three free throws.

“There were some good moments where we lost him in transition,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “He’s going to create a lot of separation and we have to have the discipline to minimize all the separation, to be a step ahead of the play. He’s at his most dangerous when he doesn’t have the ball, when he’s just moving and cutting.”

For Thompson, this was a return to the form he displayed last month, when he averaged 27 points per game, shooting 45.1 percent from the field, including 43.1 percent beyond the arc.

For Wiggins, who balanced muscular attacks in the paint with finesse darts from deep, this might be a turning point. Playing only eight games last month, he shot 36.3 percent from the field, including 22.9 percent from deep. He’s now up to 45.3 and 36.4 through seven games this month.

“The thing with Wiggs, he wasn’t just trying to score in the paint; he was making plays for other guys, too,” said Donte DiVincenzo, referring to Wiggins’ four assists and at least three hockey assists.

“What we did better tonight as a staff is we went to him more often,” Kerr said. “I probably need to do that more consistently.”

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This was a night on which Poole didn’t play particularly well, finishing with 14 points, four assists, four rebounds, four turnovers. He did enough to keep Washington’s defense honest.

Wiggins and Thompson did the heavy lifting. As they should. They were getting NBA buckets when Poole was a freshman in high school. They are influential teammates.

If they lead the way in a Warriors offense without Curry, things will come easier for Poole and, moreover, for the Warriors.

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