SAN FRANCISCO — Andrew Wiggins was 1.6 seconds from the perfect end to a turbulent stretch. He’d shot the ball horribly for nearly a month. The total damage: 5-of-37 from 3 in 13 games, delivering both a lack of volume and accuracy that had partially led to this early-season Golden State Warriors stumble.
But the eruption finally arrived in the second half Saturday night. Wiggins glided into two third-quarter midrangers that appeared to inject him with rhythm and confidence. The Oklahoma City Thunder drifted off him during this two-game series. Defenses adjust when you don’t hit shots. Wiggins finally made an opponent pay at an opportune time.
Wiggins’ first fourth-quarter 3 came with 5:05 left. It brought the Warriors within 105-102. Wiggins’ second fourth-quarter 3 came with 3:29 left. It tied the score at 108. Wiggins’ third fourth-quarter 3 came with 1:58 left. It put the Warriors up 114-112.
Then came an opportunity for the capper. Steph Curry missed a go-ahead floater with 5.1 seconds left. Kevon Looney grabbed the offensive rebound. He kicked it to a wide-open Wiggins on the left wing. He stepped into a clutch wing 3 with the type of confidence he displayed in the 2022 playoffs. Wiggins buried it. The make gave him four 3s in a five-minute stretch and five makes for the game, matching the number he’d made in the season’s first 13 games combined.
Andrew Wiggins’ fifth 3 of the night and fourth in the fourth quarter gives the Warriors the lead with 1.6 seconds left. He’d made five 3s all season before this. Here is the moment. pic.twitter.com/wtn12mIvgI
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 19, 2023
A celebration ensued. Klay Thompson rumbled over for a chest bump. This was a moment both Wiggins and the Warriors, losers of five straight, needed desperately. The problem: 1.6 seconds remained.
“This is the NBA,” Wiggins said. “As long as there’s time on the clock, you never know what can happen.”
Steve Kerr doesn’t have a firm “foul up three late” edict. He will in certain scenarios and won’t in others. With so little time left on the clock, he deployed a switching scheme off the inbound and didn’t instruct his team to foul on the catch no matter what.
“We only wanted to foul if it was a clean foul because at that (amount of) time if somebody catches — I’ve seen a lot of plays where you foul early and they still give the guy a shooting foul (and three free throws),” Kerr said. “So you got to be really careful. So we switched and Wiggs got a good challenge.”
Wiggins, the night’s hero if the Warriors could get one more split-second stop, was a step late switching onto Chet Holmgren, who curled off a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander screen to the left corner. Holmgren caught it with his back to the basket, creating what could’ve been a brief moment for Wiggins to foul before Holmgren entered his shooting motion.
“You could foul, but I feel like he was about to turn and shoot,” Wiggins said. “So he was going to shoot it or it would be three free throws. So I just tried to put hands up. I tried, but he is tall.”
CHET HOLMGREN SENDS IT TO OT 🤯 pic.twitter.com/rcbxrTENEt
— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 19, 2023
Holmgren turned and buried an off-balance tying 3. It gave the rookie 35 points. He finished with 36 and 10 rebounds on 14-of-22 shooting, adding five assists, two steals and two blocks in a 130-123 overtime win. Yet he wasn’t even the most impactful player on his team.
In overtime, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 10 of his game-high 40 points. In crunchtime, he dragged Looney into a switch and buried a deep jumper over him, tossed in another rainbow midranger over Wiggins a possession later and then closed out the Warriors with a long-armed block of a Curry stepback, turning the loose ball into a transition layup seconds later.
“That’s what he does,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Especially when they have the floor spaced like they do and some of the offense they run. Everyone is kind of a threat out there. He takes advantage of the driving angles and makes tough contested 2s.”
The Warriors opted against helping off the periphery Thunder players (Cason Wallace, Lu Dort) and doubling Gilgeous-Alexander late. It burned them.
“Part of it is shots you live with,” Curry said. “But not that many. That’s what the league is about: Scorers of his caliber winning games for his team, hitting tough shots. We allowed the game to be in position where it mattered.”
Kerr and Curry pointed to the third quarter as the defining stretch. The Warriors blew an 18-point lead.
“We turned it over four straight times,” Kerr said. “We completely lost our focus and the (lead) went from like 15 to six. We gave them life.”
Klay Thompson made three first-half 3s and had one of his more productive stretches of the season, but he faded late and finished 5-of-13 overall, rushing and missing crucial jumpers down the stretch. He is still searching for the breakout night Wiggins finally achieved.
But it came in a losing effort that landed like a gut punch in the locker room. That’s now six straight losses. Everyone around the team continues to maintain confidence in the bigger picture and a belief that this team is built to win at a greater level than a season ago.
But last season’s roller coaster never included a losing streak longer than five games, and the Warriors finished the season 33-8 at home. After Saturday’s loss, the Warriors are 1-6 in Chase Center and in danger of going 0-6 on this homestand if they can’t beat the Houston Rockets on Monday night.
“There’s urgency, for sure,” Curry said. “Any time you’re at this many in a row, it’s a problem you gotta fix. You don’t want to develop a losing mentality at any stretch of the season. That’s a stink in the locker room you don’t want to have.”
Steph Curry: “There’s urgency for sure. Any time you’re at this many in a row, it’s a problem you gotta fix. You don’t want to develop a losing mentality at any stretch of the season. That’s a stink in the locker room you don’t want to have.” pic.twitter.com/xizfhbq1wk
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 19, 2023
(Photo of Chet Holmgren celebrating his tying 3 at the buzzer with Josh Giddey as Andrew Wiggins walks toward the bench: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)