By: Rob Bishop
Back again, and Andrew Wiggins made his debut with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, and the former top overall draft pick put forth a strong effort. Operating well within Golden State’s system, Wiggins scored 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting while eliminating some of his worst habits, most notably over-dribbling during possessions and settling for contested, long-range two-pointers. It was only one game, and he didn’t share the court with Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, but Wiggins’ debut was certainly encouraging enough. Following Wiggins as he integrates into fold in Golden State will be interesting to follow this season and a major storyline next year as the Warriors look to rejoin the championship contenders.
Though newly-acquired point guard D’Angelo Russell missed the game with a quadriceps injury, Wiggins’ former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended its losing skid with a weekend win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Karl-Anthony Towns looked rejuvenated, flirting with a triple-double (22 points, 13 boards, nine dimes) while meshing well with a host of new teammates. Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez, both acquired from Denver, played well, and two unknowns–Naz Reid and Jordan McLaughlin–combined for 38 points. Minnesota will look to make it a winning streak tonight against the surging Raptors.
Speaking of the Raptors, Toronto made it to 14 straight victories over the weekend, improving to 39-14 on the season despite dealing with a barrage of injuries. Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Kyle Lowry (whiplash) were both sidelined, but Toronto’s incredible depth meant the team didn’t miss a beat. Fred VanVleet scored a team-high 29 while operating as the team’s primary ball-handler, while undrafted rookies Matt Thomas and Terence Davis combined for 35 points, including going 8-of-12 from three. The Raptors are rolling right now.
No Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram proved to be no problem for the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday as often-overlooked star Jrue Holiday shined bright. Holiday scored 31 points, handed out 10 dimes, and racked up three steals as he operated as the focal point of New Orleans’ attack. Long the subject of trade rumors, Holiday is a game-changing talent, and he’ll be relied upon heavily by New Orleans as the team looks to make a push to the eight-seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Pelicans are currently five games behind the Grizzlies heading into tomorrow night’s match-up against the Blazers.
Rookie Ja Morant of the aforementioned Grizzlies further bolstered his claim to the NBA Rookie of the Year award with his first career triple-double on Sunday. In a win over the Wizards, Morant went for 27 points, 10 boards, and 10 dimes. Memphis continues to excite and surprise, due in large part to Morant’s explosiveness and play-making ability. The team dealt starter Jae Crowder at the deadline, forcing Kyle Anderson into a larger role, and Anderson responded with 16 points in 30 minutes of action. Morant and the Grizzlies will look to keep pace ahead of the Blazers in the standings on Wednesday night.
Philadelphia managed a pair of wins over the weekend due in part to massive contributions from an unexpected source: Furkan Korkmaz. For the first time in his career, Korkmaz eclipsed 30 points in back-to-back games, going for 31 on 12-of-17 shooting on Sunday. Expected to see a reduced role following the acquisition of Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks at the deadline, Korkmaz instead made the case for increased run thanks to a lights-out display. Over the two games, Korkmaz hit an incredible 13-of-20 from beyond the arc, giving Philadelphia’s offense some much-needed floor spacing. Anything close to this level of efficiency from Korkmaz going forward would be a huge boon to Philadelphia’s quest to move into the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff field.