OAKLAND: Andre Iguodala sparked a showcase performance by Golden State’s reserves on Thursday (Friday in Manila), frustrating LeBron James as the Warriors beat Cleveland 108-100 in overtime in the opener of the NBA Finals.
Iguodala, an 11-year NBA veteran, has been a starter for his entire career until this season with the Warriors, but his bench role paid dividends as he scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
“Offensively he got going,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He made a big three in the corner late in the game. Andre has been fantastic all year. The numbers don’t always show it, but he’s a great player for us.”
Iguodala’s 3-pointer with 6:08 remaining in regulation came after he had lost a shoe getting open in the left corner.
“The adrenaline was flowing, but it was a nice flow.It wasn’t too high, and it kind of stayed with me the whole night,” Iguodala said. “When you get into a flow, as a kid, you play in socks. You play in socks all the time in your room, so you go back to those days and just play ball.”
Iguodala helped Golden State’s bench outscore Cleveland’s reserves 34-9 and went a long way to giving the Warriors the early edge in the best-of-seven series.
“That was a pretty significant factor, in terms of numbers and the lift they got,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “Our bench has been good throughout the playoffs, and tonight less so. We missed their contribution.”
On defense, Iguodala hounded four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James most of the night. James still scored 44 points, his most ever in an NBA Finals game, but Iguodala’s work meant the starters could focus more on scoring and that paid dividends as well.
“Andre, he’s one of the best defenders in the league,” Golden State’s Klay Thompson said. “LeBron had a great game but he made it so tough on him that last quarter and a half. He’s got long arms. He’s very active. He played both ends like a champion and really stepped up for us. And that’s what we expect for him. He’s such a great player.”
‘They played great’
Cleveland’s only bench scoring came from J.R. Smith, who was 3-of-13 from the floor for nine points. Only eight players in all took the court for the Cavaliers.
“That’s going to be pivotal in this series, our bench play, and they played great,” Thompson said. “We’re one of the deepest teams I’ve ever been on. That’s what we’re doing all year is just wearing on teams.”
Iguodala, who spent his first eight NBA seasons in Philadelphia and also played in Denver before joining Golden State in 2013, enjoys the challenge of trying to slow a star scorer like James.
“I don’t know if it’s excitement. I’ve been in the league 11 years, and it’s always something interesting,” said Iguodala. “Playing against a great player for a long time, you look forward to the matchup. Not just because you’re in the finals, but you’re playing against a great player.”