3. Andre Iguodala Is Going To Be Key
This sort of falls in line with our last lesson, but Andre Iguodala isn’t just another bench player; he’s Golden State’s best shot at even remotely containing LeBron James.
It feels silly to say that after James just put up an NBA Finals career high 44 points on 47.4 percent shooting. There were times when it felt like Steve Kerr‘s strategy of not sending help on LeBron was going horribly wrong, especially when James started bullying people on the block to help the Cavs build a small lead.
But it took LeBron 38 shots to get his 44 points and in the end, Kerr’s strategy prevailed: in overtime, King James went 1-for-4 from the floor (with the one bucket being a meaningless, uncontested layup with eight seconds left and the result already secured) and the Cavs scored two points. LeBron was clearly gassed and Cleveland’s offense fell apart without him making things happen.
More importantly, by turning James into a high-volume scorer and limiting his playmaking and passing, the Cavs’ offense went stagnant and resorted to WAY too much isolation ball.
Even on a night where LBJ scored 44 points, Andre Iguodala was the Warriors’ MVP. It wasn’t about his 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting off the bench. It wasn’t about his three rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. It wasn’t even about the three-pointer he made with one of his shoes off. It was about making LeBron work for everything he got defensively.
Of the 38 shots James took in Game 1, only four of them came in the restricted area, per ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh. LeBron may be the league’s best player, but he hasn’t been a great jump shooter in these playoffs and the Warriors baited him into a lot of tough looks. That starts with Iggy, who relatively held his own when it came to making LeBron work.
James got his, and that will be a recurring theme in this series. But LeBron got worn out by the end of regulation and this was only Game 1 of a seven-game series. If Iguodala can take this kind of nightly punishment and still contribute on the offensive end, Cleveland’s depressing title drought will continue.
Plays like his strip of LeBron and dunk in transition to tie the game up at 73 at the end of the third quarter might not seem so outlandish by the end of this series.