Facing a 2-1 series deficit to LeBron James and the wilting Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was left potentially staring the longest losing streak of the entire season square in the face.
After back-to-back heartbreaking losses in Games 2 and 3, the Warriors needed an adjustment, both to their inconsistent offensive play and their sulking body language.
Kerr Pulls the Right Strings
This adjustment came in the form of a lineup change in which Kerr started Draymond Green at center then swapped Andrew Bogut for Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup.
"We just felt like after three games, being down 2-1, we needed a change." Kerr said after game 4 Thursday night. "We needed to to shift the tempo, and that's why we did it. Who knew if it was going to work or not, but it went our way." (Simmons, SF Chronicle)
The Warriors' need to "shift the tempo" could not have been stressed enough. For the first three games of the series, the Cavs entire offense ran through LeBron James and his isolation post ups on the left wing, 17-feet extended. The Warriors' greatest strength on defense all season has been their ability to seamlessly switch defenders on all screens, especially with their second unit that features long armed defenders who are at the very least 6 feet, 7 inches in stature at every position. LeBron's slow it down, isolation offense limited the Warriors' ability to be dynamic on defense with their switching, which often leads to either bad or blocked shots and live ball turnovers that turn into easy fast break baskets.
As seen by the still from Game 1, LeBron had the Warriors' defense on a string. They were forced to basically stand and wait for LeBron to make his move which in turn disrupted their offensive flow. The entire pace of Games 1-3 were dictated by LeBron James' post ups/foul shots and the Cavs ability to control the offensive glass, grinding whatever tempo there was into the ground.
Kerr deserves big props for his tweak to the starting lineup to counter that. Andrew Bogut looked absolutely exhausted in Game 3 and was clearly getting outplayed by Timofey Mosgov. I personally thought Bogut would be a larger factor in this series and figured he would give the Cavaliers big men some problems, but give due credit to the relentless Tristan Thompson and Mosgov who have put enormous pressure on the Warriors' defensive rebounding, as well as forcing the refs to make tough calls with their non-stop work under the basket. If you haven't gotten the chance yet, just watch the big men battle down low for post up/rebounding position. I can't help but chuckle at those who say basketball is not a contact sport — Mosgov and Thompson are junkyard dogs who are hungry for every board, leaving the Warriors to grab, hold and foul while fighting for position down low.
Iguodala Sets the Tone
Out of the gate, it was not all lollipops and rainbows for the Warriors. The Cavs' first basket came on an offensive rebound and tip in by Thompson, followed by a legendary no look pass from LeBron to Mosgov for a jam.
I say legendary because if you look closely, Mosgov wasn't even cutting to the basket, rather trying to space out for a mid-range jumper. LeBron is every bit responsible for this basket because he saw the opening in the lane before Mosgov could even comprehend what was happening. This play is followed by a three ball in Iguodala's face by Iman Shumpert, resulting in a 7-0 run by the Cavs to start the game.
It is at times like these when the Warriors need the few cagey veterans that they have to step up and calm the younger players down. Iguodala could be seen motioning to Steph and Draymond almost to say "calm down, we're fine. We've got this." There was no way the Warriors were going to win Game 4 with the same head hanging and shoulder slumping attitude that they carried in Game 3.
As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. LeBron James routinely preaches the "next man up" and how the Cavs are all in. But Andre Iguodala has quietly set that tone for the Golden State Warriors when he along with David Lee were summoned to roles at the beginning of the season that they were not typically used to playing in throughout their all-star careers. Those roles included starting on the bench and coming into the game with the highest level of energy at a moments notice. If you think Iguodala happily accepted this role, you're wrong. But he accepted it none the less, and did it with the highest level of professionalism, setting a tone of selflessness throughout this squad that is necessary to win an NBA championship.
Andre Iguodala's role on this Golden State Warriors team has finally been put in the limelight in Game 4 of the Finals. While his sixth man role didn't produce NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams caliber numbers, his play helped to produce wins, which I will take any day over statistics. Iguodala was all over the court in Game 4, helping to hold Lebron (20 points, -15 eff. rating) to his lowest point total in the Finals thus far. Offensively, he helped carry the load with 22 points and eight rebounds as well as maintaining the quick pace the Warriors were looking for all series long.
For more on the Warriors' win last night, check out our Game 4 storystream.