OAKLAND, Calif. — Andre Iguodala knocked down another clutch 3-pointer and let out some rare emotion, triumphantly reaching his arms out wide as he ran back to the defensive end. The Golden State swingman had thrown down a spectacular alley-oop dunk only 31 seconds earlier, and he was feeling it as the clocked ticked away on a second straight lopsided playoff win.
There’s something about Iguodala in the postseason. He paces himself through the regular season to be fresh and ready – and sometimes dominant – on the big stage for the defending NBA champions.
“Everyone gets hyped when Andre gets hyped because that’s a rare occurrence,” teammate Klay Thompson said. “You might see it on the golf course.”
It’s just what the short-handed Warriors were hoping to see.
Iguodala is back in the starting lineup for Golden State’s first-round series against the Spurs, filling in for Stephen Curry as the two-time MVP recovers from a sprained left knee. That’s how versatile Iguodala is: the 6-foot-6 swingman can be inserted in place of a point guard. The Warriors will go for a 3-0 lead Thursday when the best-of-seven series shifts to San Antonio.
At 34, Iguodala knows how to take care of himself over the long grind of an NBA season, all to be prepared to do whatever is asked of him in the playoffs.
“For us to be able to throw Andre out there really 1 through 4 both offensively and defensively, it’s an incredibly valuable weapon,” coach Steve Kerr said.
That’s when he has been at his brilliant best for the Warriors – and they are getting their money’s worth from a major investment last summer.
Many feared he might leave, but Iguodala received a $48 million, three-year contract to stay put and chase another championship. Even if he could have landed a bigger role elsewhere.
“Well, we met with him and we gave him our pitch and lots of money so we were hoping he wasn’t going to leave,” Kerr said. “I didn’t anticipate him leaving because he knows this is a great situation for him and we rewarded him for everything he’s done and for what we think he can do for us. I think this year was a good example of that. A lot of people were grumbling about he’s not shooting the ball well or whatever. … It’s the incredible defense, amazing awareness, intelligence, leadership.”
Iguodala keeps it simple, whether he’s in the lineup or coming off the bench: “Just try to do whatever it takes to help the team get over the hump and get a win.”
In 2015, Kerr moved Iguodala into the starting lineup, and he became Finals MVP as the franchise captured its first championship in 40 years.
Golden State is hoping for the same this spring. Iguodala had only started seven times before Game 1 of the playoffs Saturday, when he had seven rebounds, four assists and three points.
That’s after he missed four of the final five regular season games with a sore left knee.
“He’s definitely got to pace himself, the man’s played so much hoops in the last 15 years,” Thompson said. “Andre is a gamer. He is going to step up in the biggest moments, and right now it’s the playoffs. We have all the trust in the world for him, that’s why he’s a Finals MVP.”
On Monday, Iguodala finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four 3-pointers, seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block.
And he can guard anybody.
“His hands are so good. That’s the small thing that people don’t realize, he’s got great hands when he gets steals,” Kevin Durant said. “So guys are just thinking about that when they’re trying to score on him. As a scorer you’ve got to think about something other than getting to your spots or getting into your rhythm and it throws you off just a little bit. And that’s all you need to guard the best player, just for them to think just a tiny bit and Dre does that.”
Iguodala was part of the Warriors group that traveled to the Hamptons to persuade Durant to join a super team in July 2016.
“I always knew what Andre could do,” Durant said. “I played two USA teams with him, so I kind of knew his value. He’s not one of those guys that’s going to go out and say, `Here, Dre, give us 30 points.’ He’s one of those who can do just about everything good – he can shoot, he can pass, he can dribble, he can defend, he can rebound, he can do all those things really good. It’s not like he wants to do one thing more than the other.”