MINNEAPOLIS — Six days after draining an 18-foot pull-up jumper over P.J. Tucker at the buzzer to give his team the 112-111 victory in Phoenix, Andrew Wiggins had more tricks up his sleeve against the Magic on Monday night.
With 10 seconds left in the game, trailing by two points after various miscues down the stretch, the Wolves’ franchise wing came through in the clutch again.
Wiggins’ 21-foot jumper tied the game at 98 and the Magic, for reasons unknown, ran an Elfrid Payton isolation that resulted in Karl-Anthony Towns blocking his 25-foot three point jumper to send the game into overtime.
Payton, who I like to call The Weeknd because of their similar hairstyles, felt the game-winner coming. Not tonight, Elfrid. Leave that stuff to Able (and Andrew).
Ultimately, the Wolves took care of business in the extra period, walking away with the 111-105 win at home.
“That shot is big,” Towns said about Wiggins tying the game with 10 seconds. “We don’t even have this opportunity to talk about a win without him hitting that. It was a huge shot. It’s something that when we came in, we felt very comfortable with him making the shot. Very glad that we had the chance to get him the ball in a spot that he liked. It just shows you how much of a gamer he really is.”
For those questioning the development under Tom Thibodeau, look no further than the team’s eight wins in the last 11 games, or the sixth win in the last seven home games. Talk is cheap, a favorite saying of iron man center Gorgui Dieng, but the progress is obvious. The Wolves found a way to grind out another win instead of crumbling under pressure. That’s the biggest difference over the last five games, minus the Indiana loss where the Pacers were hitting tough shots all through the night. The team has been finding ways to win.
“I got to my spot, raised up, hit the shot,” Wiggins said in his usual calm, quiet demeanor when asked about making another clutch shot to lift his team. “I believe in myself. My teammates trust me to put the ball in the basket when it counts and that’s what I did.”
Wiggins finished with a game-high 27 points (10-21, 1-3, 6-8). Six of those points came in overtime, along with one outstanding block of Elfrid Payton's 3-foot layup to keep the lead at 106-100 with 2:16 remaining. Zach LaVine’s free throws with 21 seconds all but sealed the victory and Nikola Vucevic’s three-point attempt rimmed out to end the game for good.
“I liked his aggressiveness in the fourth,” Thibs said when asked about Wiggins’ play down the stretch and in overtime. “I thought he was attacking the basket and the shot he made to tie the game, that’s his shot. He got right to his spot; great balance, knocked it down. Everyone did their job to execute. The screening was good, the pass from Ricky was good, everything was good, and Wigg making that shot, that’s great shot making by him.”
Is Wiggins’ pull-up jumper off the dribble an unstobbale move in late game situations?
“He gets separation on his initial move, so he just has to get to his spot and when he gets there, if he’s got his balance, you think it’s going in,” Thibs said.
While Wiggins might have stole the show with his crunch time heroics, Ricky Rubio was superb on Monday night and his performance was a crucial factor in the final result. He finished with a season-high 22 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds in 35 minutes. The story of the game has to be his career-high six three-pointers. Orlando was begging him to shoot all night and Rubio certainly made them pay for it.
“I felt good and let it fly,” Rubio said when asked about his career night from deep.
Karl-Anthony Towns posted another excellent stat line with 23 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks. KAT was feeling much better after almost not playing against Brooklyn due to an illness that left him sleeping right up until game time. He responded with his 37th double-double of the season.
“That’s a huge sign for us all pretty much, not to shoot our best—but Ricky really hitting the three tonight helped us a lot—but for us to not play the best defensively and offensively and to come out with a win just shows a lot of growth,” said Towns. “Even when things are not going right for us, we can still find a way to win and scratch one out.”
Shabazz Muhammad reached double figures for the fifth time in his last seven games, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds as the sixth man off the bench. Gorgui Dieng matched a season-high with 14 rebounds and Thibodeau praised his rebounding afterwords.
The Wolves recorded assists on 29 of 40 field goals, the ninth time this season they have handed out 29 or more dimes (7-2). They also blocked a season-high 11 shots; four different players blocked multiple shots (Towns 3, Bjelica/Dunn/Rubio 2).
For the Magic, Elfrid Payton finished with 21 points, Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Nikola Vucevic chipped-in 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Let’s check in on Vucevic real quick to see if he’s doing alright.
LORD. HAVE. MERCY.
In the words of Dave Benz, “OH MY GOODNESS, ANDREW WIGGINS CAN FLY!”
KAT added another delicious dunk to the cause.
The Wizard of Bazz also had a little something for Coach Vogel and company to chew on heading into the fourth.
“I thought we labored through the game,” Thibs said during his postgame press conference. “We were low energy to start. I thought in the end, we made mistakes but we still found a way to win, so that was the positive.”
That was the overwhelming message being delivered after the game.
“I think we didn’t play good,” Rubio candidly assessed, when asked if he agreed with Towns and his coach, who both talked about finding ways to win even when they are not at their best.
“These are the games that we say ‘wow, we didn’t have it 100 percent, but we still kept winning.’ That's what's going to make us be able to make a run at the end to try to make the playoffs."