When the Boston Celtics host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, the spotlight will inevitably land on Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Stephen Curry.
The Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the NBA at the moment, winning five-consecutive games and seven of their last eight. The Warriors are also heating up at the right time, winning four of their last five games.
And while the superstars on each respective team (rightfully) receive the greater portion of the praise, this is to draw focus on a pair of Canadians who have stepped up in a big way to contribute to their team's success.
Brampton, Ontario native Tristan Thompson has been integral for Boston since returning from a long absence due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Toronto, Ontario native Andrew Wiggins has been a key cog for Golden State all season, as the only player on the team to appear in all 56 contests so far.
With the 2021 Tokyo Olympics right around the corner and these two players potentially filling roles big roles to help the Canadian National Team qualify, it's an exciting sign to see Thompson and Wiggins playing their best basketball when their teams need them most.
Ahead of their matchup on Saturday, let's take a look at what's clicking for each of them.
Wiggins has always been able to score the rock. That has never been an issue.
In five and a half season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he accrued 8,710 points, ranking him third all-time in franchise history, only trailing Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett and Karl-Anthony Towns. That's an impressive feat, but there were always critiques on Wiggins' inefficiency, shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from 3-point range for his career heading into this season.
Now playing alongside the greatest shooter of all-time in Stephen Curry, life has become much easier for Wiggins as a scorer. He can't draw too much attention from opposing defences because all eyes are always on Curry. As a result, Wiggins is enjoying the most efficient season of his career, averaging 18.1 points per game while shooting career-bests of 47.5 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from 3.
And with Golden State clawing to stay in the Western Conference playoff picture, it becomes imperative that Wiggins continues to step up and give Curry a helping hand on offence, especially making defences pay for leaving him open.
Since the All-Star break, Wiggins has done exactly that.
The Toronto product is shooting a blistering 44.9 percent from 3-point range since the break. According to NBA stats, of players that have shot at least 50 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts since the All-Star break, Wiggins' 47.9 percent conversion rate is good for seventh-best in the entire league. In fact, he's knocking down catch-and-shoot 3s at a better rate than his teammate Curry (47.8%), even if by the slimmest of margins.
Over the team's recent four-game win streak, Wiggins is knocking down an impressive 42.1 percent of his 3s. If this is a part of Wiggins' game that is here to stay, the 26-year-old may have unlocked a whole new element to his scoring abilities moving forward.
Thompson was out for 13 games due to the league's health and safety protocols but since he has returned for the Celtics, he has been arguably their most important player outside of their two All-Stars.
Dating all the way back to before he was out from health and safety protocols, Boston is a jaw-dropping 10-1 in the last 11 games that Thompson has played. Adding a much-needed physical presence in the frontcourt - especially after trading Daniel Theis at the trade deadline - Thompson has been a brute force in the paint for the Celtics.
His per game stats of 8.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks over the recent five-game win streak won't wow you, but the advanced stats will. Take a look at the difference Thompson makes when he's on the floor for Boston, versus the void he leaves behind when he's on the bench.
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Thompson's net rating of 20.2 is second-best on the team during that stretch - only Grant Williams (24.5) has a higher net rating.
He's been effective in protecting the rim, with opposing players shooting a mere 32.1 percent on shots inside 10 feet against Thompson...
Tristan Thompson denial on @NBATV! pic.twitter.com/1c2bqjpTwV- NBA (@NBA) April 11, 2021
...and he's flashing a bit of playmaking as well, with eight assists over his last two games.
Tristan Thompson dishes to Tatum for the slam 💥 pic.twitter.com/wDsMPgT1g1- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 16, 2021
Starting centre Robert Williams has been dealing with knee issues, missing Boston's last game and set to miss this upcoming contest against the Warriors. Thompson stepped into the starting lineup with a strong 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and one block in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, and he'll look to keep this intensity going against an under-manned Golden State frontcourt.
If both of these Canadians suit up for the National Team as this version of themselves, the North will be in good hands in trying to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
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