CP3, Wiggs come through for Warriors in ‘aggressive' outing vs. Spurs

CP3, Wiggs come through for Warriors in ‘aggressive’ outing vs. Spurs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Back-up Warriors point guard Chris Paul is a well-known master of the pick-and-roll, but when that didn’t work out well in a gut-punch loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, the 12-time NBA All-Star opted to go in a different direction in the rematch on Monday.

He took Andrew Wiggins down the same path with him, and the duo came through nicely in a much-needed 112-102 victory over the Spurs at Frost Bank Center that helped the Warriors keep pace in the crowded Western Conference.

Making his second consecutive start in place of injured star Stephen Curry, Paul dropped a cool 19 points on the Spurs on 9-of-19 shooting to go with a season-high nine rebounds and eight assists in what arguably was his best all-around game of the season.

Wiggins, also back in the starting rotation, had his best game in more than two weeks with 16 points and four assists.

The two provided the Warriors with a big offensive spark that had been noticeably missing since Curry went out with a right ankle injury.

“I told Wiggs before the game [that] me and him needed to be more aggressive,” Paul told reporters in San Antonio. “I’ve been coming off all these picks and rolls looking to pass every time. I missed a bunch of shots I should have made tonight, but I told Trayce [Jackson-Davis] any time we get the ball he should be looking to set a screen.

“Our team is a lot different when Steph is out here playing. When he’s out, we have to figure things out.”

For the first time in five games without Curry this season, the Warriors were able to do just that.

Golden State overcame a ho-hum first quarter, took control with much better defense in the second and third periods, then held on for the win that was punctuated by a phenomenal dunk by Jackson-Davis over Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Even before that monumental jam by the Golden State rookie, the Warriors were playing much better and more crisply than they had during Saturday’s loss at Chase Center to the same Spurs team.

Paul obviously was a big reason why.

“He controlled the game, got us organized down the stretch when [the Spurs] were threatening. Hit a bunch of shots, distributed the ball, rebounded. He did everything,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s a reason he’s going to the Hall of Fame. He’s one of the greatest point guards ever, and he’s still got a lot left.”

Following the loss to the Spurs on Saturday, Kerr challenged his team to play with better energy and spirit for Monday’s game.

Paul and Wiggins seemed to adhere to the plan nicely.

Paul also came up big in the leadership department, helping to fill the void created when Curry got hurt.

“He’s really a coach out there,” Jackson-Davis said. “He tells you exactly what you need to do, where you need to be. He’s a great teammate. He’s really, really fun to play with.”

That’s certainly nothing new.

When Paul missed 21 games earlier this season with a fractured left hand that required surgery, he was a constant presence on the Warriors’ bench. Seemingly in every game, he would routinely offer tips and advice to players when they came out of games, and he was just as vocal while the game was going on, barking out directions and putting his teammates into the proper positions.

“You should be worried if I ain’t saying nothing to you,” Paul joked with the “Warriors Postgame Live” crew. “But seriously, I’m just constantly trying to teach, and play and compete at the same time.”

Paul has spent much of the season anchoring Golden State’s second unit. He and Klay Thompson are probably the only two future Hall of Famers to be steadily coming off the bench during the 2023-24 NBA season.

With Curry sidelined, however, the Warriors had the luxury of looking to Paul to help fill the gap.

“He’s a master of the pick-and-roll, just understanding angles and using his strength to get defenders on his side or on his back,” Kerr said. “Then he just reads the decision so well, to pass or shoot. You saw he had several lobs to Trayce and then when they played the lob he would pull up and make the mid-range shots. It’s a great way to be able to close games when you know Chris is going to get you a good look.”

In his fourth game back after a brief leave of absence due to personal reasons, Wiggins showed indications of still being a key player for a team with playoff aspirations. He shot 6 of 8 overall and made multiple 3-pointers in a game for just the 17th time this season, the first time since Feb. 25.

Wiggins also spent part of his night trying to defend Wembanyama despite being at a seven-inch disadvantage. Wembanyama scored 27 points but missed 15 of the 25 shots he took.

For a player who has been in and out of Golden State’s lineup during the 2023-24 campaign, more nights like this from Wiggins will make it increasingly difficult for Kerr to keep him on the bench.

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