NBA: Andre Iguodala’s Case for 2015 Finals MVP

Andre Iguodala celebrates after hitting three-pointer in Game 4

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Some will say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. If the Golden State Warriors continued on the same path they had followed in the first three games of the 2015 NBA Finals, there’s a very good chance the Western Conference champions would be heading back home for Sunday’s Game 5 down three games to one.

So with their season essentially on the line, Steve Kerr and the rest of the Warriors’ coaching staff decided they would no longer stick to the status quo. They inserted veteran Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup, and finally found the spark this team was missing. The Warriors found their pace, controlled the game from pretty much the get-go, and knotted the series at 2-2, with a convincing 103-82 victory. In one fell swoop — with one bold move — the momentum has changed hands. Once again, we have ourselves a series.

Iguodala had spent the better part of his 11-year career in the starting lineup of every team he’d ever been a part of. In fact, this past 2014-15 season was the first time he had ever come off the bench. And while that may have proved effective during the regular season, it wasn’t doing the Warriors any good in the Finals; especially when you consider the impact he’s made, which Kerr finally acknowledged after the contest when he stated of the 31-year-old, “He’s been our best player through four games.”

But we’ll take things a bit further. If Iggy keeps up this level of play, he could very well find himself taking home some extra hardware when this series comes to a close.

LeBron James tries to post up Andre Iguodala in Game 4

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Iguodala is not the Warriors leading scoring in these Finals. Despite his average shooting — by his standards — Stephen Curry is still leading the way with 23.5 points per game. However, you could easily say that Golden State’s No. 9 has been the team’s most effective offensive contributor. Through four games, Iggy is averaging 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He’s giving the the Dubs 35.9 minutes a game and is shooting 57.5% from the field, including 40.9% from beyond the arc. He’s shown no hesitation on his release, and seems to consistently be the guy who hits the bucket that sucks the air out of the Cavaliers’ sails. This happened often during Game 4.

Getting the chance to start for the first time all season, Iguodala took full advantage of the opportunity. He had a team-high — with Curry — 22 points on 8 of 15 shots. He was also perfect from the line and 4 for 9 from three-point land. Iguodala also snagged 8 rebounds and through in a steal, for good measure. But it was his ability to lock down LeBron James on defense that, ultimately, showcased his true worth.

Coming into Thursday night, James had been averaging a remarkable 41 points, 12 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per games. He had set a new record for the most points scored through three games of an NBA Finals with 123, and he was finding a way to bend Golden State to his will. But Game 4 was different. Game 4 saw the King only notch 20 points — 7 of 22 — 12 rebounds, and 8 assists. And that all started with Iguodala’s smothering defense. With Iguodala guarding him, James was only 4 for 14 from the field. Considering the planet’s best player has shot a combined 18 for 54 this series with Iggy up in his grill, we’d say this wasn’t a coincidence.

Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala chat in Game 4

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The Cleveland Cavaliers need LeBron James to be at his best if this team hopes to have any shot at winning the championship. But with Andre Iguodala as his primary defender, the King has been anything but. On the flip side, the Golden State Warriors have been at their best when No. 9 is on the court – plus-32 — and struggling — minus-10 — when he’s riding the pine. As long as the Warriors continue to utilize this small lineup, with Iguodala at the forefront, it will be the underdog Cavaliers who’ll need to find a way to adjust.

The story lines for most of the Finals so far have centered on the unlikely rise of Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova and the historic play of King James. ‘Bron had been performing at such a superior level, that many thought — win or lose — he was a clear favorite for the MVP award. After Thursday night’s Game 4 performance, a new individual made his case for consideration. When the Warriors needed him most, Andre Iguodala stepped up to the place, and led them back into contention. Funny thing is, he’s been doing it all series. It’s about time people finally took notice.

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.comESPN.go.com, and ESPN Stats & Information.