Coming off a disappointing defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, the Golden State Warriors got some good news before tipoff of their Tuesday night matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans: Starting small forward Andre Iguodala, who'd missed 12 games with a strained left hamstring, was ready to go and would return to Mark Jackson's starting lineup. And while he didn't set the box score ablaze, the versatile 30-year-old swingman did show that he had his bounce back, getting up high to corral a Stephen Curry lob late in the second quarter:
But it was a play that came up short midway through the third quarter — thanks, it must be noted, to a fantastic contest by Pelicans center Jason Smith — that provided the most compelling evidence that the freewheeling, playmaking and confident Iguodala who helped spark the Warriors' strong start to the season is all the way back:
The last times I can remember a home crowd being that excited about a missed dunk by a member of the home team were when Blake Griffin didn't posterize Rodney Stuckey and Shannon Brown didn't posterize Jason Richardson, and that's just because nobody died. In this case, the Dubs-loving faithful at Oracle Arena lost their minds thanks to a slick behind the back/through the legs dribble that confused the Pelicans defense and created enough space for Iguodala to raise up and cock the hammer; that Smith's defense caused a misfire seemed almost incidental.
That's due in large part to Smith's block being just about the only thing that went New Orleans' way on Tuesday; you have the luxury of A) trying that sort of move and B) having its failure not matter when you're shaking defenders and inbound 'oop-ing your way to a monstrous lead, as Golden State did on Tuesday. The Warriors led by 22 when Iggy went showtime, pushed that advantage to 26 late in the third quarter, and went heavy on reserves in the final frame en route to a 104-93 win that restored some of the good vibes in the Bay Area.
Iguodala didn't play in the fourth — as a matter of fact, Jackson took him out after the dunk attempt — and finished with just two points, two assists and a turnover in 17 1/2 minutes, but his return reverberated far beyond his statistical impact, as the Warriors' head coach and star point guard told Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group:
"He's a guy that makes it so much easier with his ability to make plays, read and react," [Mark] Jackson said. "We missed him, and we are glad to have him back. It was also a carry-over effect, because other guys began to read, react and make plays, so it was a big-time win for us." [...]
"We lost some games we should have won when he was out, and that helps you understand how important he is for our team," [Stephen] Curry said. "We need to be healthy and have a solid roster that Coach can utilize night in and night out, and hopefully we can reach our full potential as a team."
Iguodala said he still has some limitations physically, primarily moving side to side while defending.
"I was a little hesitant on the smaller guys," he said. "I think I had two drive-bys that I can remember. So that's something to work on. But we'll be cautious."
Yeah, that behind-the-back/between-the-legs move seemed pretty cautious.
"Has a missed dunk ever been a top-10 play?" David Lee asked after the game. "That was a sign there that he's feeling better."
And the fact that the Warriors outscored the Pelicans — admittedly shorthanded, playing without injured star forward Anthony Davis and big-minutes reserve guard Tyreke Evans — by 20 points in Iguodala's 17--plus minutes sure seems like a sign that Golden State's feeling much better with its "fill-in-the-blanks" guy back in the fold.
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