Sans Steph Curry, the extraordinary Golden State Warriors were downright ordinary at the tail end of the regular season, losing four of their final 10 after Steve Kerr cycled through a variety of stop-gaps such as Quinn Cook and Patrick McCaw. Even more disconcerting is that veteran Andre Iguodala looked washed at the end of the season. Yet, as a surprise starter, the second-oldest member of the Warriors manually flipped the proverbial playoff switch and emerged as a productive surrogate during the early stages of the postseason.
That was very apparent during the Warriors’ comfortable 116-101 Game 2 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night. In Game 1, Iguodala’s defense and versatility did the talking. He was no replacement for Curry’s gravity-changing 3-point shooting, but he frustrated nonetheless. Following his Game 1 performance, he supplemented Durant and Thompson’s 63 combined points with 14 points, seven boards and five assists in Game 2.
Kevin Durant’s 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting and six assists and Klay Thompson’s 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting butchered the Spurs’ defense, but Iguodala’s surgical approach was instrumental in dissecting San Antonio on both ends.
Whereas the Spurs have burnished a reputation as one of the NBA’s best assisted living homes for the elderly, Iguodala, 34, is Golden State’s nearest Manu Ginobili analogue and in his 14th season, his skills appeared to be deteriorating quickly. He averaged career lows in minutes played (25.3), points (6.2) and 3-point shooting percentage (28.2 percent). However, Kerr remained confident enough in his ability to thrust him into the lineup before Game 1.
Golden State has been here before. Three years ago, they trailed Cleveland 2-1 in the NBA Finals before Kerr smashed the Emergency Iguodala case. His insertion into the starting lineup prior to Game 4 triggered three straight Warriors wins and ended with him being named Finals MVP.
The stakes aren’t as high, but Iguodala still has the intangibles, length, rangy limbs, lateral quickness and disruptive defense to spark Golden State’s defense in spurts without being a minus offensively. In the first five minutes of Game 2, Iguodala sank his first three triples and finished 4-of-5 from distance.
He was an apex predator on defense throughout the evening. He stripped unsuspecting Spurs as they drove into the paint and as they gathered to attempt a shot. Iguodala facilitated, contested, initiated the offense, made decisive passes in transition and hurled himself at the rim catching a lob from Draymond Green.
The bounce in Iguodala’s step during Games 1 and 2 has been a welcome sight. Curry’s not expected to return to the lineup until sometime during the Western Conference semifinals. Iguodala probably can’t maintain this pace for the duration of this postseason. In the meantime, he simply needs to provide Golden State with the same energy level and versatility he’s exhibited thus far in this postseason until Curry returns.
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