There are not many things the Golden State Warriors truly worry about throughout the course of an entire regular season. It isn’t the defense, which they have shown they can crank up for quarters at a time, and for an entire 48 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It isn’t the pick-and-roll, not for a team that’s the best offense in the NBA for the past 4 years and counting. It isn’t the mental fatigue so much anymore as the Houston Rockets are starting to become the favorites for some around the league. Instead, it’s the underrated key to how this entire dynasty began: Andre Iguodala.
It’s the fourth game in a row since the All-Star Break now but the once-reluctant sixth man is becoming to play like the X-Factor turned Finals MVP that everyone has grown to love off the bench. He’s the final piece to the Death Lineup and while guys like Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, David West, and Shaun Livingston are capable performers in his steed, there is no blend of defensive versatility and 3PT shooting that Iguodala brings when he is on. And he was another human being during the 109-101 win against the Wiz.
The stat line, 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 4-5 from the field, and 6-6 from the free-throw line, did not come close to explaining it all. He dive-cut after a backscreen instead of fading to the 3PT line, then received the pass and went up and looked to score, instead of passing the ball out or trying to pumpfake and draw a foul. Pure aggression and confidence unseen this entire season, and throughout most of last year too. He missed his only 3 but didn’t stand around aimlessly on the perimeter passing up any shots. Even in transition, he went right at Kelly Oubre in a 1-on-1 matchup and finished with his left hand right over him. While this doesn’t mean that Iguodala is all of a sudden a superstar again.
He’s not Denver Nuggets Andre nor is he even the guy that the Warriors relied on off the bench in 2014. That doesn’t matter anymore. With Kevin Durant taking over nearly all of his responsibilities as the defender and found money scorer off the bench, what Iguodala does bring when he’s as great as tonight becomes a luxury. It appears Andre has played the slow game to perfection, as has the Golden State Warriors as a team. Coming out of the break, he’s suddenly jacking up 3s, creating for his teammates, and giving just enough drive-to-the-hoop effectiveness to keep the bench units afloat. The Warriors are favored with or without a great Andre Iguodala. But for an exclamation mark to a boring season to happen, the luxury of Iguodala becomes a necessity. His return to form cuts the margin of error for teams like the Houston Rockets to below zero. Eric Gordon, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Ryan Anderson need to play lights out just to have a chance. Given the circumstances, experience, and pedigree, which side would you trust?
As for the team themselves, the Warriors are still cruising, but it’s a different type of control. The defense is locking in. The switch doesn’t immediately turn on, not for sustained efforts after a season off. But Draymond Green is starting to find ubiquity again. Klay Thompson completely erased Bradley Beal in a matchup of top shooting guards. The Hamptons 5 isn’t fully operational yet but there are signs on both sides that the avalanche is coming. The leaves are stirring, the winds are blowing, the ground is trembling, and Andre Iguodala and the Golden State Warriors are coming.