Andre Iguodala’s Invaluable Finals Performance


June 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) keeps the ball away from Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) in the first half in game five of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Down 2-1 to the hobbled Cavaliers, Steve Kerr made the bold decision to insert Andre Iguodala into the Game 4 starting lineup–his first start of the season.

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The Cavs quickly took advantage of the smaller Warriors, attacking the paint and the boards with Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. Despite being down 7-0, the resilient Warriors eventually found the pace that had won them 67 regular season games. Iguodala, as a starter, was the desperately needed spark that the Warriors needed to change the complexion of the series. Stephen Curry is the focal point of the Warriors offense, as his “gravity” alone changes the way that teams defend. However, Iguodala may be the most important Warrior in this series.

On paper, Lebron James is putting up historical numbers and minutes. He’s averaging 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in these Finals. He’s the sole reason for the Cavs lasting this long and he’ll look to continue this trend in Game 6. While the box score may not reflect it, Iguodala is doing a fantastic job of containing Lebron. When guarded by Iguodala, Lebron is shooting only 35.2 percent from the field. Iguodala’s length allows him to bother Lebron on most shots. His experience also allows him to read Lebron’s scoring patterns and anticipate his plan of attack. Iguodala’s defense on Lebron during his go-ahead attempt in regulation in Game 1 was a testament to how he’s been playing all series. He forced Lebron to shoot a contested fadeaway that would miss badly, sending the game to overtime, where Lebron would only score one basket.

Throughout five games, Lebron has only made 11 of 46 contested shots against Iguodala. He’s not letting Lebron get loose for off-ball scoring opportunities thanks to his great ball denial ability. When Lebron has to resort to isolation, he has huge trouble getting buckets against Iguodala.

In Games 1 to 3, the Warriors were unable to play comfortably at their own pace. The ISO-heavy nature of Cleveland’s offense limited the opportunities for turnovers. Andrew Bogut‘s fatigue and inability to provide anything offensively didn’t help the Warriors whatsoever. Bogut has been outworked by Mozgov and Thompson in this series, and has clogged the paint, leaving Mozgov to protect the basket fairly easily. Iguodala ranks second in net rating among all players in the Finals at 14.9 and has a +/- of 9.6. His offensive versatility has given the Warriors a reliable weapon when Curry or Klay Thompson can’t get free.

Jun 11, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) reacts after a three pointer during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game four of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Iguodala is averaging 14.6 points on 54.9 percent shooting and 3.8 assists while also shooting 40.7 percent from three point range. His insertion into the starting lineup lets the Warriors play at their best. He excels at running on the open floor and has finished with authority in this series. His confidence in his jumper stretches the floor, especially when the Cavs have tried to counter the Warriors’ small ball unit with a large lineup featuring Mozgov. Iguodala is probably the best player on the team when it comes to turning defense into instant offense. Whenever he secures a defensive rebound or strips the ball away from a Cavalier, he always manages to push the ball up the court for easy transition baskets.

Iguodala may be the most important Warrior in this series.

Iguodala was fairly tentative during the regular season when it came to shouldering some of the scoring load. That hasn’t been the case in the Finals. He’s been able to effectively play selflessly while getting baskets when he has the chance. Despite the free throw woes in Game 5, he stepped up late in the fourth quarter to ultimately seal the game and swing the momentum of the series. He hit a three-pointer and a put-back layup to give secure  a seven point lead. Iguodala’s been nothing but a true professional this whole season. By letting Harrison Barnes take his starting role for most of the season, he allowed him to develop his confidence and his skills, which have been essential throughout the playoffs. When his number was called in Game 4, Iguodala responded in a huge way.

While the Finals MVP may go to Curry (if the Warriors win) or Lebron James for his historic performances, Iguodala certainly deserves a nod for his irreplaceable presence on both ends of the floor.