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Andrew Wiggins and the Warriors defense resurface • Basket USA

After a difficult week at home with two infuriating defeats against New York and Indiana, the Warriors were on the brink, on the verge of losing their 10th place. Ten days later, they won five of their last six games, four of them away, to turn themselves around.

And in his last six matches, Andrew Wiggins and the Golden State defense raised their voices.

The Return of “Two-Way Wiggs”

A little over two years ago, Andrew Wiggins was the second best player for the Warriors, during their coronation in 2022. During this season, the former Wolves player received a new nickname from Warriors fans : “Two-Way Wiggs”.

This nickname symbolized his defensive impact, generally on the best opponent outside (Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, etc.) but also his offensive impact. This version of Andrew Wiggins has become a distant memory as the Canadian's performances have been up and down since this 2021/22 campaign. For several weeks, however, the Warriors have been proclaiming loud and clear that “Two-Way Wiggs” is back.

“Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) has been really performing on both ends of the floor for a while now” confirmed Steve Kerr after the victory against Dallas. “He is aggressive offensively, he attacks the rim and he defends at a high level. He's in a good rhythm at the moment, he feels good physically, and it shows. »

In the last six games, he averaged 17 points and 6 rebounds per game. Besides the statistics, it is his state of mind that seems different. Andrew Wiggins is again aggressive towards the circle and he no longer refuses shots from distance. In Orlando, he took the game into his own hands, finishing with 23 points against one of the best defenses in the league. Last night, despite Luka Doncic's stat line, Andrew Wiggins made him work like crazy, while finishing as the Warriors' top scorer, with 23 points.

Certainly, he came through in San Antonio (4 points at 2/12 on shots) but all the lights are green for the Canadian. Can he continue until the end of the season and during the play-in? The answer will surely decide the fate of the Warriors.

The defense rose to the challenge

After the defeat against Indiana, Steve Kerr was indeed furious with his players. Backdoors authorized, poorly assured defensive withdrawal, passivity on the carrier, random rotations… Their defense had been atrocious. Since then, and after Cleaning The Glassthe Warriors have the sixth best defensive rating in the league over the last two weeks.

With the exception of their loss at Minnesota, Golden State has conceded 100 points or fewer in five of their last six games. Last night's performance against Dallas, who remained on a streak of seven consecutive victories, was the most impressive of their season as Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have been shining for several weeks.

And it all starts with Draymond Green. Although his expulsion in Orlando made headlines and reignited the debate about his excesses, he remains one of the best defenders in the NBA when he is focused and on the court. As always, he continues to play this role of conductor and firefighter of the Warriors defense. He is the one who directs his teammates and who comes to erase their mistakes.

His third quarter against San Antonio completely changed the appearance of this match. He did the same thing last night several times and in “money time” with a decisive counter on Daniel Gafford, to whom he nevertheless returned ten centimeters.

“Draymond is a defensive genius” exclaimed Andrew Wiggins. “He is everywhere and, as teammates, it gives us a lot of freedom because we know that he is behind us and that he will be able to help if we make a mistake or if we try something. »

Draymond Green, however, needs his teammates to follow suit, and they answer the call. In the absence of Jonathan Kuminga, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II took over their responsibilities. Moses Moody also brought significant aggression off the bench to maintain this same level of intensity.

“We are more precise in understanding our defensive strategy and we communicate more,” described Chris Paul. “Throughout the season, we knew where to position ourselves but we didn’t do it systematically. I think we are starting to understand that our defense must be the foundation on which we must rely. Offensively, we have incredible shooters and scorers but if we defend like we can, then it will open up everything else. »

The adage is that defense wins titles. There is little chance that the Warriors will be champions in June but the strong return of their defense could allow them to make the playoffs.

In Houston to definitively push back the Rockets?

Before thinking about the playoffs, the Warriors must first validate their ticket for the “play-in” and they play the next match in Houston, just behind them in the standings.

The Rockets were back on the heels of the Warriors thanks to a series of eleven consecutive victories. However, they lost in quick succession against the Wolves and the Mavs and now find themselves with three more defeats than Golden State. The Warriors also have the tie-breaker by having already won their first two games against the Rockets. They will therefore have the advantage in the event of a tie at the end of the campaign.

In the event of a victory, the Warriors would therefore have four fewer defeats than their direct opponent with only six games to play. Even in defeat, the Rockets' heist attempt seems more and more complicated. The Warriors therefore want to project themselves forward, with the Lakers always in their sights.

Comments collected in San Francisco.

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