SAN FRANCISCO – With Klay Thompson being a late scratch Tuesday night, the Warriors’ need for a secondary scorer suddenly was a more acute issue than it has been all season. Facing the junk defenses of the Philadelphia 76ers, Stephen Curry, no matter his output, might appreciate some help.
But who would be Curry’s co-pilot for this ride-along? Jonathan Kuminga was the best bet, having scored at least 20 points in each of his last six games.
Or maybe it would be Andrew Wiggins, an efficient and productive scorer in consecutive games.
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How about both?
Kuminga and Wiggins combined for 49 points, augmenting 37 from Curry, and the Warriors put together a solid defensive performance carve out a 119-107 victory.
“It’s great to see Wiggs and JK both playing so well, and playing well together,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It's fun. You can see the team is shifting a little bit with the look. How we're playing and who we’re playing. I know Philly was short-handed, but I thought it was a really good defensive effort from our guys.”
The win allowed the Warriors to even their homestand at 2-2 and leave town Thursday with positive vibes on what will be a challenging road trip, beginning Friday at the Memphis Grizzlies.
Golden State Warriors
A challenge they might be up to, assuming Thompson gets over his illness, and Kuminga and Wiggins continue to play solid hoops.
Kuminga poured in 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 1 of 3 from beyond the arc, running his streak of 20 or more points to seven games. He added seven rebounds and three steals. He was plus-10 over 39 minutes.
“We’re just trying help him understand that if he can continue to produce, sprinting the floor and getting those buckets in the paint, that we're willing to live with some of the defensive mistakes and stuff that he's going to get better and better with,” Kerr said. “He's really been much better defensively terms of game plan discipline with more minutes so check his plan playing well it's really fun to see him starting to grow.”
But the most encouraging development for the Warriors is Wiggins’ revival. In a fog most of the 2023-24 NBA season, he’s back to being an impact player on both ends. He finished with 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, including 1 of 2 from distance.
Wiggins also produced five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. He finished plus-18 over 38 minutes.
“I think Wiggins has been better for about a month,” Kerr said. “We saw it with his defense, his movement. I think what's happening now the last few games I just think Wiggs’ defense has been good for a month or so. But offensively, with the lineup change, there's a little more space the way we're playing. We're able to play a little bit faster. And he's getting downhill, getting to the rim, doing some things that are very comfortable for him. He’s really starting to get into a good groove.”
This is the “Wiggs” the Warriors have been waiting for.
“My advice to him is, ‘You’re damn good at basketball,’ ” Draymond Green said. “ ‘People are going to talk. They’re going to say this, they're going to say that. But you're very good at this game.’
“I trust him to know you have our trust so it's not that you know that the lack of trust is coming from inside this locker room. Who cares what anybody else thinks? What we need is an aggressive Andrew Wiggins, looking to get downhill, raising up to shoot the ball and confidence, and he's been doing that.”
On this night, it did not matter that Golden State’s bench had one of its rougher games, scoring a total of 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
It did not matter that Thompson, the team’s No. 2 scorer, was nowhere near the floor.
What mattered is that Curry got plenty of help.
If this continues, the Warriors will give themselves a great chance to climb back into position for, at the very least, the play-in tournament.