The Golden State Warriors have rolled up a 2-0 lead in the 2018 NBA Finals despite playing without injured swingman Andre Iguodala, who has missed the team’s last six games with a bone bruise in his left knee. Looking to keep the pressure on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in pursuit of their third NBA championship in four years, Steve Kerr’s club might get some reinforcements during their stay in Northeast Ohio.
While Iguodala’s status for Wednesday’s Game 3 remains uncertain, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP “hasn’t experienced any pain over the last few days and plans to return for the NBA Finals.”
On Saturday, Iguodala progressed enough to go through a full personal workout and sprinted for the first time since sustaining a bone bruise in his left knee in Game 3 of the conference finals, sources said. […]
When approached after the Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 122-103 in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead, Iguodala told ESPN, “I aim to play in Game 3, but I’ve aimed to play in Game 2 and Game 3. We’ll just have to see.”
The ESPN report comes after an early Monday note from Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania that “Iguodala aims to return when this series shifts to Cleveland.”
Iguodala hasn’t suited up since Game 3 against Houston
Sunday marked two weeks since he suffered the injury against the Houston Rockets. While guarding James Harden on a drive to the basket, Iguodala hemmed Harden up at the foul line, leading the likely 2017-18 Most Valuable Player to lurch forward and knock his knee into the side of Iguodala’s left knee as he lost control of the ball:
From the fourth quarter of Game 3: After defending a James Harden drive and picking up a steal, Andre Iguodala comes up hobbling. He stayed in the backcourt on the Warriors' offensive possession, checked out of the game a minute later, and didn't return: pic.twitter.com/s5UvIV7MK4
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) May 21, 2018
Iguodala immediately came up hobbling, holding his left leg. He remained in the backcourt while Golden State attacked in transition, and didn’t get back into a play that ended with Klay Thompson hitting a 3-pointer off Kevin Durant’s offensive rebound of a missed dunk by Draymond Green. Iguodala stayed in the game for the next couple of trips, but checked out at the 6:49 mark with the Warriors up 29, and wouldn’t return.
The 34-year-old hasn’t taken the court since, removing from Kerr’s rotation a steadying veteran presence who had started 12 of Golden State’s 13 playoff games before his injury, first as a de facto point guard while Stephen Curry was still working his way back from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, and then as a two-way perimeter presence who helped activate the Warriors’ powerful “Hamptons Five” small-ball lineup. The Warriors have persevered, drawing within two wins of a second straight title thanks largely to the individual and collective excellence of their All-Star core of Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green.
Iguodala has remained part of the Warriors’ success
To hear Kerr tell it, Golden State has also benefited by having access to Iguodala’s intelligence and savvy on the bench, as a player who’s become one of the league’s best at seeing every angle on the court has made his presence felt while seeing new ones off it.
“He came into the huddle the other night in Game 1 with a great suggestion that we went with, and it worked,” Kerr told reporters before Game 2. “Andre knows the game as well as anybody, and I always welcome his input. He’s been a great mentor for the younger guys in this group the last few years. He’s doing everything he can while he’s on the sidelines to help us out.”
Andre Iguodala tells Jordan Bell how NBA officials work pic.twitter.com/4P5KzIVr8m
— Born Salty (@cjzero) June 4, 2018
I really enjoyed Andre Iguodala’s reaction to Jordan Bell immediately responding to his advice on avoiding bad fouls when guarding LeBron (https://t.co/6w8LlbUQ3z) by playing off him, closing the distance and forcing a turnover: pic.twitter.com/9uWkrhPZbo
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) June 4, 2018
Obviously, though, Kerr would prefer to have Iguodala doing that sort of instruction in uniform on the court.
What Iguodala would bring to the Warriors in this Finals matchup
For one thing, while we’ve learned time and again over the years that there’s no such thing as a “LeBron stopper,” the Cavs’ best chance of getting back in this series remains James returning to his unstoppable Game 1 form. While Durant and Green did yeoman’s work in limiting LeBron in Game 2, Golden State would love to have the guy who earned Finals MVP honors for his achievements in that field available for the balance of the series.
“I think [Iguodala’s presence would be important for] just having more bodies to throw at Bron,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said at practice between Games 1 and 2. “That’s about it.”
Not necessarily, though. When the Warriors have sputtered in this postseason — really, whenever they’ve faltered over the past couple of seasons — it’s been because they’ve lost focus defensively and given over to their tendency to commit careless turnovers that allow opponents to get out in transition and pile up easy points. Cough up the ball a few times and give the likes of J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and the rest of the Cavs’ scuffling shooters a chance to see a layup, dunk or wide-open corner 3 splash through the net, and all of a sudden the run of play can tilt back Cleveland’s way.
Blow a few defensive assignments and help rotations early, and instead of protecting a seven-point lead for three quarters until Steph can break the game open, you’re trying to climb out of a 10-point hole with LeBron James throwing dirt on you out of the post. String enough of those miscues together, and you’re sitting on a 2-1 lead facing the possibility of heading to the Bay all square rather than up 3-0 and looking to close the Cavs out on their home court.
The Warriors have a big margin for error in this matchup, and have given themselves a two-game cushion, but they can’t afford to mess around; they need to weather the storm likely to hit them come tipoff on Wednesday, keep things simple, and just stay solid. Even after two weeks on the shelf, having Iguodala available to settle things down off the bench would be huge.
Kerr said Sunday he remains “optimistic Andre will play at some point in the series,” but that there was “no way of knowing for sure at this point.” If he’s really able to get back on the court in Cleveland, it’d go a long way toward helping the Warriors finish the job before James and company can find a way to claw back into the series.
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• Michael Lee: Why these Finals have been so sweet for Steph
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