“They said it before the game started that they’ve lost the last few games so that they’re hungry to win and you know, they punched us in the mouth first. I think it took us two quarters to really respond and in the third quarter we had better energy and our body language just picked up. It seemed like we wanted to compete more in the second half than we did in the first.”The newly acquired Andrew Wiggins floated through the first half, which has always been the knock on him. But part of that may be attributed to being in a new system and on a new team. He won’t have that excuse for much longer though, and he’ll need to show he can make an impact, especially on this shorthanded and undertalented squad. Four points, two rebounds and an assist like he had in the first half is not going to get it done. It looked like a switch flipped for him in the second however as he had 11 points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. Steve Kerr said Wiggins represented a microcosm of the team as a whole:
“I thought his play reflected ours, you know, we got nothing going in the first half and then the third quarter when we started really competing and playing with pace, that’s what Andrew got going.”Damion Lee and Wiggins found a nice rhythm together and play off of each other to get some quality looks. Wiggins started making quick decisions, whether it was attacking closeouts or an immediate catch-and-shoot. And when he wasn’t able to get to the rim, he was able to find Lee at the 3-points line. Plus, the Warriors started pushing the pace, which suits Wiggins perfectly. When the game is slowed and he is asked to create off the dribble, that is where he runs into a lot of problems. Wiggins said that it’s been a different situation, but the Warriors style makes it an easier transition:
“I’ve just been trying to process everything, it’s a new team, it’s a new system. But at the end of the day it’s just basketball. This is easy basketball, the way we play as a team, it makes it easy, it makes it fun. Everyone is getting shots; everybody is playing together. So it’s just something I have to keep processing.”He finished with 18 points, and Lee led the team with 26, but it wasn’t nearly enough as even with their offensive outburst, the Warriors still shot just 39 percent from the field. On the other side of the ball, Wiggins showed some decent ability to stay in front of his man, but also got backdoored more than a couple times. That is going to be the key for him on a Warriors team that incorporate a lot of switching and complicated rotations — off-ball defense. Kerr said the team is still figuring out who he is, and that’s why it was important they traded for him at the deadline:
“He’s brand new here he’s had literally one practice and one shootaround. He’s just figuring out his surroundings and we’re just figuring out lineups. So, this is why I think it’s a big deal that we got him now rather than this summer or whatever. I mean just to get thirty games under his belt going in the next season will be huge for us.”He wasn’t the only one to get burned on defense, though. Miami easily generated scoring chances with their movement. Jimmy Butler had 21 and Jae Crowder, who was traded to Miami along with Andre Iguodala, had 21 of his own. The Heat ran a lot of high post and inside-out actions, which showed off the playmaking ability of their bigs. Kelly Olynyk had 11 assists in 21 minutes and Bam Adebayo added seven in his 25 minutes. And while Wiggins and company made it close in the third, the talent difference pulled the Heat away in the end. That may very well be the case from here on out, or at least until Stephen Curry returns to the floor, but the integration of all these new pieces is the real story, and the only thing really worth monitoring.
Up NextAll that stands between the Warriors and the All-Star break is a quick trip to Phoenix, where they’ll take on the Suns Wednesday. Then they’ll have a full eight days of rest before taking the court again.
NotesEric Paschall will be the only Warriors player to take part in any All-Star weekend festivities, as he was selected to participate in the NBA Rising Stars game.
Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.