There were two themes among the reactions to the Golden State Warriors' thrilling Game 6 victory in Oklahoma City on Saturday night that struck me a odd.
The first is labeling versatile Warriors wing Andre Iguodala an "unsung hero" or someone who's overlooked. SB Nation's Zito Madu made the compelling argument that, "...he's a weapon to unleash only in the most critical moments. For it is in those isolated snapshots, when narratives are forming and dying at high speeds, that Iguodala makes his greatest mark." However, with the rise of the Death Lineup (or SBDS) this season following his 2015 NBA Finals MVP performance, Iguodala was "unleashed" often enough that it seems really difficult to overlook his value.
Maybe it's just that we, as Warriors fans, acknowledge his value more often than NBA fans broadly; maybe Iguodala really is overshadowed on a team with three All-NBA players who made all kinds of history on their own this year. But his Game 6 performance against Kevin Durant has become closer to what's expected than surprising at this point.
Chad Waters of the San Francisco Examiner succinctly summarized Iguodala's fourth quarter defensive performance blow by blow, but the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson beautifully captured how Iguodala's defensive value is hardly underrated among those that watch the Warriors closely while helping to put the performance in context.
Saturday, he thwarted a future Hall of Famer in Durant, maybe a second in Westbrook, in a game that will be sentimental for millions of Warriors fans. And it was the latest piece of evidence for why Iguodala is just as vital to this machine that is now, including playoffs, 167-34 under Steve Kerr...Kerr started Iguodala for the second half, in place of Harrison Barnes, to turn up the heat on Durant. And Iguodala came through like he always has, and like never before...Their trust in Iguodala allowed them to change their approach. They made sure to have Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut ready to help on Durant drives. The whole unit is ready to clog the paint on Durant and Westbrook drives. But mostly, Game 6 was Iguodala alone trying to stop Durant from being great.
Thompson highlight's Durant's numbers in the second half after Iguodala started, but the fourth quarter numbers alone are worthy of closer examination.
Iguodala helped hold Durant to 1-for-7 shooting and two turnovers, leading Durant and Russell Westbrook to combine for 3-for-14 shooting and six turnovers in the fourth. In short, Iguodala's ability to contain Durant, short-circuited the Thunder's offense.
The fourth quarter box score says it all. pic.twitter.com/Hw8feZ2CiE— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) May 29, 2016
So in acknowledging the significance of starting Iguodala in the second half and how his defensive performance stymied Durant, it seems odd that some media and folks on Twitter are trying to cram the Oklahoma City Thunder's fourth quarter performance into the long-standing narrative of how often they collapse late in games — that seems to diminish just how effective the Warriors were defensively.
It took a superhuman effort for Golden State to escape last night, and now OKC is going to be accused of gagging if they lose in 7? Please.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 29, 2016
OK, we're going to walk through this ... https://t.co/Czf8YyLkqe— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 29, 2016
Iggy tied the game with a layup, then stripped RW and fed Klay for the go-ahead 3. It's 104-101.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 29, 2016
Durant misses a 3. OKC then gets a stop
The three TOs in that sequence were two great plays by Iggy and an uncalled foul.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 29, 2016
OKC got two stops down 3 to stay in the game. I mean...
And then Steph makes the TOUGH floater off glass to kill the game off.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 29, 2016
Where is the "choke"?
Just tip your cap. OKC stayed in Game 1 and stole it. GSW did the same in Game 6. They made great plays. It's f---ing sports.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 29, 2016
But all this then leads to a question: should the Warriors start Iguodala in Game 7 at home to more quickly suppress the Thunder's hopes of advancing and prevent needing more fourth quarter heroics?
Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group reported earlier today that Warriors coach Steve Kerr doesn't anticipate making a change to the starting lineup for the decisive Game 7, but with the Warriors escaping Oklahoma City with a win after using their small lineup, Andrew Bogut really struggling to keep up in this series and Harrison Barnes not adding significantly more than Iguodala on the offensive end, should the Warriors try to start with what works?
@NateP_SBN: No.— Tamryn Spruill (@tamrynspruill) May 29, 2016
The typical SBDS lineup of Barnes, Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was the best of Game 6, registering a +12 while helping to hold the Thunder to just 26.4% shooting from the field in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Bogut has been largely ineffective on the floor throughout the series as he seems slow to rotate on the backside and OKC's bigs have owned the boards.
It would be understandable if Kerr stuck with the starting lineup that has helped the Warriors force a seventh game, but do you think the Warriors should make a change to the starting lineup? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments below.