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The Luka Doncic stopper? Why Andrew Wiggins, Warriors defend Mavericks’ MVP contender better than anyone

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The Warriors did something in the 2022 NBA Playoffs that neither the Jazz nor Suns could.

They made Luka Doncic look human at times.

Yes, Doncic still averaged a near 30-point triple-double for the series, but he didn’t make quite the same impact as he did in the previous two rounds, which helped the Warriors outlast the Mavericks in five games and advance to the NBA Finals.

How did they do it? It was a team effort spearheaded by Andrew Wiggins.

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How well did Andrew Wiggins defend Luka Doncic in the 2022 NBA Playoffs?

As expected going into the series, Wiggins spent more time guarding Doncic than anyone else on the Warriors.

The matchup data points to Doncic still getting his points rather efficiently against Wiggins, but Doncic committed almost as many turnovers (11) as assists (13) in their minutes matched up together.

Here are Doncic’s numbers from each game of the series with Wiggins as his primary defender:

Luka Doncic when defended by Andrew Wiggins (2022 NBA Playoffs)
Game Points FGM-FGA Assists Turnovers
1 12 4-10 1 3
2 17 5-8 3 1
3 23 8-14 2 1
4 7 2-7 3 3
5 10 4-9 4 3

Doncic went into beast mode in Games 2 and 3, scoring a combined 82 points. (You noticed how I said the Warriors made him look human “at times,” right?) In the three other games, Golden State held him to an average of 26.0 points on 36.1 percent shooting from the field. That was a big win for the Warriors.

Was Andrew Wiggins actually effective against Luka Doncic?

The days of anyone being able to stop Doncic one-on-one are long gone, but Wiggins matches up with him better than most physically. While he’s giving up 23 pounds, they’re listed at the same height, and Wiggins has the length to bother almost anyone.

The combination helped Wiggins hold his own against Doncic. He’s strong enough to not get bullied by Doncic in the post while still being quick enough to stay in front of him off the dribble. Wiggins even applied full-court pressure against Doncic, which made him work harder to get into the Mavs’ sets and drain precious time off the shot clock.

“It’s a tactic obviously in terms of just making guys work,” Stephen Curry said of Wiggins guarding Doncic the full 94 feet. “It’s just one more thing to think about. I wouldn’t say it bothers you but something you can’t try to overcome.

“Wiggs is going to keep doing it, but it’s just one more thing to think about and that’s good playoff basketball.”

Sequences like this stand out:

Wiggins picks Doncic up early, doesn’t give him the switch he’s looking for, matches him step for step and forces a turnover on a zero pass possession. The Warriors entered the series knowing shutting Doncic down isn’t possible and instead focused on making him work for everything. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The sequence also points to another reason Wiggins had some success against him — he had perfectly-timed help behind him.

Blink, and you may have missed Draymond Green’s impact on the possession above.

He started it guarding Jalen Brunson on the perimeter.

Then, he dropped all the way to the rim when Doncic committed to the drive, slowing him down just enough to let Wiggins swipe at the ball.

Draymond Green vs. Mavericks (2)

Green strikes the balance of helping at the right time without giving up a clear advantage better than almost anyone in NBA history. As well as Wiggins defended Doncic on an island — here are more examples if you want — the backline rotations by Green in particular helped limit his easy looks and playmaking as much as possible.

You probably remember Green’s viral block on Dorian-Finney Smith from the same series. It was Spencer Dinwiddie who had the ball in his hands, not Doncic, but similar principles applied.

Watch how much ground Green covers here:

Goodness.

There was much more that went into Golden State’s defensive masterclass against Doncic and the Mavericks in the 2022 Western Conference Finals, from timely coverage switches to genius matchup changes, and yet none of it would’ve been nearly as effective if it weren’t for Wiggins’ hounding defense at the point of attack and Green’s crisp rotations.

Knighting them Doncic stoppers would be a step too far, but it’s hard to think of another defender and team that makes him work as hard as Wiggins and the Warriors do when they’re locked in.


Credit: sportingnews.com

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