MINNEAPOLIS – Andrew Wiggins took over the game when the Wolves needed him most, scoring 15 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter in the comeback win over the Sixers.
"He's turning into an unbelievable player right before our eyes every night," interim coach Sam Mitchell said.
With 2:39 remaining in the game, Philadelphia led 91-86. For a moment it felt like déjà vu; the winless Sixers would again walk into Target Center, like they did last season as an 0-17 squad searching for their first victory, and send the Wolves to another agonizing defeat.
But Wiggins flipped the proverbial switch, taking matters into his own hands like the superstar Minnesota needs him to become.
He was sensational down the stretch, scoring the next seven points of the game before hitting Kevin Martin, who started at shooting guard for the first time this season, with a beautiful dish on the perimeter with 28 seconds left. Martin nailed the 3-pointer to seal the victory.
"I think the basketball world knows I needed that to go in," Martin confessed afterwards. "Wiggins made an unbelievable pass and the trust that he had to give it up and to make the right play was good."
The story of the game was not Okafor dominating the battle of highly touted rookies, nor Town's foul trouble that completely threw him off his game, a rare sighting early in his awe-inspiring rookie season. Instead, it was the Wolves' sophomore wing coming alive in the clutch, giving his doubters an incredible performance to chew on.
"I didn't want to lose," Wiggins said afterwards as Drake's "Legend" blasted through the upbeat Wolves locker room.
"We've never won at home until today, so that really got me motivated down the stretch," Wiggins said. "I looked at the score and we were down like four and I thought we've got to pick it up, I've got to pick it up."
That's exactly what he did.
"Now I feel like since we got that first [home] win, I think the winning will keep piling up now," Wiggins said. "We opened the door for it."
Martin talked about watching Wiggins turn it on in the fourth when every possession becomes crucial.
"It was fun to watch him turn it on and get aggressive in the last five, six minutes of the game," Martin said. "That's something that we need from him every game. He can do whatever he has to do in the first three and a half quarters and in the last six minutes, he has the talent and all the skill sets to take over a game like he did."
Sixers coach Brett Brown talked about how good Wiggins was at the end. "We tried to double team him, go at him early, get the ball out of his hands, he beat traps and turned a lot into and-1s," Brown said.
Ricky Rubio finished with eight points, 11 assists and six rebounds on the night. After the game, he talked about how Wiggins is starting to realize how good he can be, how he has all of the skills to be great, and how he's realizing that he can go at guys off the dribble.
"He can become MVP one day in this league," Rubio said.
- The Wolves shot 46.2% from the floor tonight, and held the Sixers to 41.0%.
- Wiggins finished one point shy of his career-high 33, which he recently registered on Nov. 9 against Atlanta. It was his third 30+ point outing of the season and the seventh of his career. Wiggins now has the most 30+ point games before his 21st birthday in franchise history: Wiggins 7, Marbury 6.
- Wiggins has been the leading scorer in eight of his last nine outings, averaging 25.4 ppg (48.1%) in that stretch.
- Kevin Garnett gave the Wolves serious energy tonight. His defense was outstanding again. His trash talk to rookie T.J. McConnell was even better (seemingly getting into his head during the second half). Garnett finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds in 17 minutes in his best game of the season.
- The Wolves bench combined for 35 points tonight, led by Gorgui Dieng. His 12 points were his first double-digit scoring effort in the last five games. Dieng has been inconsistent off the bench this season, adjusting to a new role, but was really good in place of Karl-Anthony Towns, who dealt with foul trouble (and frustration) all night.
- Jahlil Okafor was incredibly dominant tonight on his way to 25 points and 12 rebounds (his fifth career double-double). He entered the game averaging 17.9 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Tonight, Okafor won the battle of the rookies.
- Philadelphia's bench combined for 48 of the team's 95 points, led by Robert Covington's 18.