SAN FRANCISCO — Expectations versus reality.
Sports and, indeed, life are terribly complicated affairs, but so often, the day-to-day and minute-to-minute of both can be defined by the constant battle between what we think will happen and what actually happens.
Andrew Wiggins knows this battle all too well.
Popular opinion declared that he was supposed to be the “Maple Jordan” — the first Canadian superstar in this league — and the kind of player that is worthy of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Did he personally set any of those expectations? No. They were bestowed upon the soft-spoken now 27-year-old by strangers.
And so in eight seasons in the NBA, he’s yet to take a step in this league that has been graded against the curve.
But on Monday night, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Wiggins was the best player on the floor alongside Steph Curry and opposing two of the league’s best wings.
Wiggins’ 26-point, 13-rebound, defend-everything performance was the driving force of a 104-94 win that has the Warriors one victory away from a fourth title in eight years.
Forget your expectations. Here’s the reality:
Monday’s Game 5 wasn’t a breakout or a narrative-changing game for Wiggins. No, the Warriors wing has proven himself to be a winner of the highest order throughout this postseason.
From the first possession of the first game of the first round against Denver, Wiggins has played with a laser focus and relentless motor.
There’s no doubt that a good number of people have missed this transformation. Countless more have seen it happen but were blinded by long-held preconceived notions.
But Game 5 was merely a continuation of Wiggins’ already outstanding form.
Yes, it was Wiggins’ best game of the playoffs. Considering the stage, it was arguably the best game of his career.
But this was a crescendo.
And if you’ve been paying attention, Game 5 should not have been a surprise.