LOS ANGELES — The Warriors remain hopeful that Andrew Wiggins will be available for Game 6 of their second-round playoff series against the Lakers on Friday night after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in the previous game.
Several players said Wigigns was in good spirits at the team’s shootaround Friday morning.
“Wiggs is a big boy. I think he can handle it,” Gary Payton II said. “I’m sure this is not the worst he’s been through, so I’m sure he’ll find someway, deep down and come out and go with us.”
Payton said the Warriors didn’t go over a scenario of who would be tasked with the assignment of defending Lakers star LeBron James.
“Hopefully that means Wiggs is ready to go,” Payton said. “Hopefully we don’t gotta worry about that.”
If there’s any player who can relate to what Wiggins is going through, it’s Kevon Looney.
Looney suffered a similar injury to the cartilage supporting his rib cage during the 2019 NBA Finals when then-Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard plowed into him.
“It hurt a lot,” Looney recalled. “I was told I wasn’t going to be able to play through it at first but we got some different opinions on how they would play through it.”
Looney wore a protective pad over the injured area near his collarbone. He said he was functional for the most part, but the pain management was “pretty tough” to handle. He ranked his pain level at a seven or eight on a scale between one through 10.
“There were a couple games I wasn’t sure if I was gonna get through but I was able to get through,” he said.
Looney missed one game immediately following the injury but played the last three games of the series.
It’s unclear how Wiggins’ injury, which is located on his lower left side of the ribcage, might impact his ability to shoot and match the physicality needed to take on James.
“[You] want to play freely on the court, you want to use your instinct but the way you got the injury, you kind of guard the area and it can make you overthink a little bit,” Looney said. “Especially a guy like Wiggins, you get a lot of action, he’s guarding the best player on the court. So he’s gonna get hit a lot… It’s definitely tough but once you get over the hump they’re like, ‘Alright I’m doing this and it can’t get worse, you kind of just try to go out there and play through.”
Wiggins’ health is paramount to the task of overcoming a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series. His 25-point performance in Game 5 helped the Warriors force a Game 6.
With Wiggins not at 100%, other Warriors players will need to step up, including Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and Payton.
“When you got a guy like that, putting his body on the line, it makes you want to go even harder, to raise your game and compete at a higher level because you know somebody’s out there risking their body… to achieve a goal,” Looney said.
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