The abrupt switch in the starting lineup was a move Head Coach Steve Kerr was hesitant to make at first, but evidently turned out to be a spark that Golden State ever so needed to turn this series and possibly their season back in their favor.
On Thursday night inside Quicken Loans in Cleveland, the insertion of Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup over Andrew Bogut wasn’t just a move that regained the Warriors focus. But set a statement back to the Cavs that this series is now a best 2-out-of 3, with two of the games in Oakland. The move itself was expected, however, the player it impacted the most, now has installed a new name for himself. Andre Iguodala up to this point in this series has done everything and more for Golden State, which is why he is the best candidate for Finals MVP. Here is a breakdown over the impact he’s made in this series.
Iguodala’s defense has made the difference on LeBron and Cleveland’s guards
The biggest adjustment Steve Kerr made from Game 3 to Game 4 was how he defended LeBron James in the half court. Instead of sticking to isolation, where LeBron James was set up one-on-one with a less talented guard defensively such as Klay Thompson. He utilized a smaller lineup by moving out a quick footed Iguodala on James at the 4.
Here is what Golden State’s old defensive set up looked like.
When Golden State went to this defensive style. It gave LeBron a handful of opportunities to simply beat his man off the dribble.
Coming into Game 4, almost all of Cleveland’s points this series has ran through Lebron. Before Golden State’s decision to go small and double. LeBron was responsible for assisting or scoring 200 of then Cleveland’s 291 points. After the move has transpired, Iguodala has done wonders on defense.
For the series, LeBron has missed 79 shots. Iguodala has been responsible for 42% of those missed shots. Overall, when Iguodala has been manned up with James, he has been able to cut off dribble penetration completely and force him into taking many off-balanced jumpers. His suffocating defense has lowered LeBron’s field goal shooting to 13/47 (27%), which is 11% below his series average. Even when giving up height and some weight, Iguodala has stood tall. His active arms and extended length on-the-ball has been used as an advantage when he is paired up with Cleveland’s smaller guards such as J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, or even Matthew Dellavedova.
In Game 4 alone; Shumpert, Smith, and Dellavedova were combined 7/35 from the field (20%). While Iguodala for the most part was guarding LeBron around the free throw line, he picked up the Cavs guards along the wings. The reason why he, himself, thrived while defending on the perimeter had to do with the game-plan of doubling up. Mostly, when this occurred it forced Cleveland to beat the Warriors with their role players. While those guys came up big during Games 2 and 3, things were the complete opposite once Iguodala got a hold of them. For the game, the trio of Smith, Delly, and Shumpert combined to shoot 2/19 from behind the perimeter and 6/45 collectively.
To provide a more innovative glimpse of how poor Cleveland’s guards shot in Game 4. Here is the shot chart.
Has become Golden State’s most consistent scorer
Before the Finals started, not much talk was surrounded in regard of Iguodala being one of the Warriors top scorers. In fact, his 22 point performance was the most he’s scored the entire season, playoffs included. It was the first start of the season for Iguodala, and he responded in a big way as he tied Stephen Curry with a team-high 22 points, and hit four 3-pointers.
Iguodala, who entered Game 4 averaging just 8.7 points in the playoffs, knocked down 8-of-15 shots, also added in eight rebounds to his stat sheet. A great all-around game from Iguodala made Kerr look like a genius for making the right move. But not only did Iguodala become a dependable resource offensively, he has brought back Golden State’s high pace offense and high volume shooting that was lost in Games 2 and 3.
This mainly was generated on the defensive end. Once Golden State forced Cleveland’s guards into long jumpers. The Warriors sprang out in transition, guided by the smooth Iguodala. His 8 rebounds played a role in dictating the explosive tempo that Golden State wants to pursue the remainder of the series.
Through 4 games, Golden State has managed 46 fast-break points, in the Warriors cataclysmic Game 3 loss, the Warriors were held to just four the entire game. Everything is a carry over effect with one another, and the reason why the Warriors as a team have been at their best in the fast lane is the low rate of turnovers being committed. During Game 4 alone, the Warriors finished with 24 assists and just seven turnovers. The 24 assists matches the total from their Game 1 win and the seven turnovers equals a franchise playoff record. These numbers have reflected seamlessly to when Iguodala has been on the court.
In the first three games of The Finals, the Warriors’ assist/turnover ratio was 1.36 as they had 61 assists compared to 45 turnovers. In Game 4, their ratio improved 2.5 times what it has been in the rest of this series. When Iguodala is featured in the offense, he almost has a 4:1 assist-turnover ratio this series.
Veteran leader and the impact he has made for the Warriors
Golden State is trying to become the first team since the 1991 Chicago Bulls to win a title without having a single player on their roster built with Finals experience.
Iguodala isn’t “old” by basketball standards quite yet. He is 31 and for now is the best fit for the Warriors to help off-set a lineup that features a roster that’s average age is 25.
He has already withstood the torchurous journey of being an NBA veteran, something that teammates Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have yet to endure. Along the way, he has molded friendships with current and future hall-of-famers such as Allen Iverson in Philadelphia, or with Carmelo Anthony while at Denver.
As of now, Iguodala has reached a point in his career, where he has seen everything come his way. All season long, he has sacrificed. He’s seen his minutes cut and his starting job taken away from him. Now with just two wins away from a championship he can call his own. Iguodala is in the process of making whatever final push he has left to transcend his already “stable” legacy into a Finals MVP he can commemorate for years to come.
During Iguodala’s Finals’ run, he hasn’t just brought a franchise onto the threshold of history. But has taken youngsters Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green into his arms.
After the Finals will have concluded, when looking back on Golden State’s season. Andre Iguodala was never the most trendiest Finals MVP candidate, but for Golden State, he means the world to the franchise that no one can match.