NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Warriors wake up thanks to Iguodala — Heading into Thursday night’s Game 4 of The Finals, the Golden State Warriors had played 95 games. In every one of those, small forward Andre Iguodala did not start. But staring down a 2-1 series deficit, Golden State coach Steve Kerr decided to switch that up and gave Iguodala the nod. It paid off swimmingly for player, team and coach as Iguodala had 22 points and eight rebounds and the Warriors won 103-82. Our Shaun Powell was on the scene and details how ‘Iggy’ made this series pop again:
The return of The Team That Won 67 Games was quite a sock, if not a shock, to the system of LeBron James and the Cavaliers. It was combustible and complete what the Warriors did Thursday in Game 4, hitting shots and throwing booby traps and doing everything possible to avoid the dreaded 3-1 deficit and also seize momentum in a series that returns to Oakland.
And so the scenes to take away from a 21-point Warriors Game 4 shellacking of Cleveland is this: LeBron bleeding and wheezing from the challenge of carrying a team, and Andre Iguodala welcoming it.
Iguodala scored 22 points with eight rebounds and was the first line in a trapping Warriors defense that finally reduced LeBron’s shots, points and impact. It was the first blowout result of a series that, until Game 4, had a pair of overtime games and another game decided by two points. It was a thorough performance by the best and most consistent Warriors player in this series, and once again Iggy displayed his high value to the Warriors on both ends of the court. Of course, coach Steve Kerr’s decision to bench the sloth-like center Andrew Bogut for Iggy will be described as an Auerbachian move, except Iggy’s minutes were virtually identical as the previous three games, and Bogut was so ineffective to this point anyway that Kerr didn’t really have a choice.
The difference-maker for the Warriors, once again, was Iguodala, the only player immune from the NBA Finals fog that swallowed up most of his teammates. Not only is Iguodala taking up scoring slack with the inconsistency shown by Curry and Klay Thompson, but he also has the grinding task of checking LeBron. And while LeBron has had big scoring games, he hasn’t shot the ball exceptionally well (50-for-129 in the series) and Iguodala had a key stop of LeBron in the closing minutes of regulation in the Game 1 win.
“He’s one of the X-factors and he came to play,” said LeBron. “He was in attack. He was very, very good for them.”
The Warriors signed Iguodala three years ago for this very reason, to be a unifying force on a developing team and serve as an example of how to defend, which then was Golden State’s only weakness. Since he arrived the defense gradually improved.
Iguodala isn’t the same player now as he was then; his numbers have decreased with age, although Kerr never lost faith in him. Iguodala went to the bench mainly because Kerr wanted to feed the confidence of Harrison Barnes, not because Iguodala was suddenly a slug.
“I mean, he’s our most experienced player and he’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around,” said Kerr, a member of championship teams in Chicago and San Antonio. “He sees the game. He’s got a great basketball mind.”
When Iguodala took the new role in stride at the start of the season, his teammates took notice. It’s not often when a proven player buys into the idea of being replaced in the lineup by an understudy. Some players rebel. Iguodala adapted, as did David Lee when he took a seat for Green, which allowed Green to have a career year.
And guess what? Bogut fell in line when he took a seat in Game 4. It’s now contagious.