You may not notice it on the surface, but the Golden State Warriors are missing Andre Iguodala and it’s not for obvious reasons.
Iguodala has often been praised for his defense, especially in the playoffs, earning a moniker of being a “LeBron (James) stopper”. While LeBron has averaged statistics in the playoffs that are even higher than his numbers in the regular season, Iguodala does hold credit for his tough defense at times against LeBron and other opponents.
During Iguodala’s five-year stint with the Warriors, he holds a defensive rating of 106 and a career-high offensive rating of 117. Before going down with an injury to his leg, Iguodala has a defensive rating of 103, among the lowest of his playoff career.
Iguodala’s absence was first felt during the Warriors’ Western Conference Finals matchup against the Houston Rockets when the team faced a 3-2 series deficit before G Chris Paul went down after re-aggravating a recurring hamstring injury and the team was able to take advantage and win the series in seven games. If the Rockets don’t have a historic, and very unlucky, tough shooting stretch, the Warriors are going home before the NBA Finals for the first time in three years.
Fast forward to Game 1 of the NBA Finals and you’ll again see how the Iguodala’s absence has affected the team. LeBron was able to once again have a spectacular game scoring 51 points with eight rebounds and eight assists while Kevin Love added another 21 points. While it is not a guarantee that Iguodala would have dramatically affected the outcome, after all the Warriors won, but his job is to make his opposition take tough shots and he is more than capable of doing that.
Iguodala will be playing for the first time in about three weeks. LeBron should take initiative and attack the basket whenever Iguodala is his primary defender, forcing him to make extensive use of a recently healed leg contusion. Other slashers such as Jeff Green and Rodney Hood should follow LeBron’s lead and force Iguodala to test his leg and potentially hinder his defensive capabilities.
Game 1 was the Cavaliers’ best chance so far to win a game, with or without Iguodala in the lineup. With Iguodala’s return in Game 3, the offense may not need to be even close to perfect to leave with a win. The Cavs are back at home where the role players are expected to play better and this may be the biggest contribution to a Cavs win.
Home court and Iguodala at less than 100% are more than enough for the Cavs to even this series up at two games apiece by the time the weekend is over.