Starting Iguodala in Game 1 win vs Spurs goes exactly as planned for Kerr, Brown

Monte Poole
NBC Sports BayArea

OAKLAND -- When the pollen is swirling and the stakes are raised, Andre Iguodala seems to know what to do, when to do it and, most of all, how it will affect his Warriors teammates.

That's why Iguodala was the first trick Steve Kerr, with help from assistant coach Mike Brown, pulled out of his postseason coaching bag.

It was Game 1 of the first-round series against the savvy underdog San Antonio Spurs and Kerr was seeking a specific result with a particular style. So he dialed up Iguodala, a veteran wing and the team's Sixth Man, to start -- at point guard.

"I just wanted to put our best defensive lineup on the floor from the beginning," Kerr said after a 113-92 victory Saturday at Oracle Arena. "The whole point of these games early in the series is to re-establish our defense. You guys already know, over the last month or so, our defense has been subpar.

"You can't win in this league in the playoffs unless you defend, and they defended tonight. We went with our best defensive group."

Iguodala, a 14-year veteran replaced Quinn Cook, who has spent most of the past month starting at point guard for the injured Stephen Curry but had never appeared in a playoff game.

Iguodala has spent most of the past couple weeks coping with tendinitis. He missed six of the last seven regular-season games.

Brown actually approached Kerr a couple weeks ago with the idea of starting Iguodala. Kerr bought it. He went with what he knows and, given the results, he's likely to stay with this curveball of a move.

Iguodala knew it was coming, despite joking that he learned 30 minutes before the game. He handles the ball a lot as a "point forward," anyway, so this was not a major adjustment. Once the game tipped off, he didn't do much of anything different.

"It was the same as usual, just be ready to go," Iguodala said of his reaction to starting. "Like I have been saying this since Steve's gotten here, we're on the same page from a basketball standpoint. We were thought the same principles from our college years. I know what to be ready for and I know what to prep for, so just being ready for whatever when the day came."

The Warriors seized control early, taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and maintaining it for all but a few minutes after. They limited San Antonio to 34.1-percent shooting in the first half, 40 percent for the game.

Iguodala's length (he's 6-7, six inches taller than Cook) allowed the Warriors to switch at random on defense.

"He can guard four positions, so it made sense," Brown said.

"We focused in on just trying to win every possession on the defensive side of the ball and then we weren't worried about the previous possession or the possession that's coming after that," Draymond Green said. "We just tried to focus in on guarding our man, switching when he need to, boxing out, finishing a possession and then getting out and running."

Iguodala's numbers don't stand out, but they rarely do. He scored 3 points but had seven rebounds, four assists and one steal. He was plus-16 over 23 minutes.

"Andre gives us so much on both ends, especially the defensive end, his ability to guard every position," Klay Thompson said. "He's got some of the best hands I've ever seen and our ability to switch I think disrupted them. I know they will make adjustments Monday but we were able to clog the lane and get back to shooters, and Andre initiates that at the point guard position.

"But he's such a great glue guy, can literally do everything, whether it's get the ball off the board and lead the fast-break or knock down an open three. He was huge for us tonight. He only took four shots but his intangibles and his rebounding, as well as playmaking, were great."

Game 1 goes to the Warriors. It goes to Kerr and Brown, who set the stage. They wanted to go defense, so they went to someone they knew would bring it.

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