Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Andre Iguodala and Steph Curry Combine MVP Efforts to Fuel Warriors' Finals Win
VIA: At the beginning of what would eventually become a season for the ages, the Golden State Warriors asked Andre Iguodala to sit down.
And when they needed someone to cap off a historic campaign with a final championship push, he stood taller than anyone.
Iguodala became the first player to win the Finals MVP after spending the entire season as a reserve, collecting the award after the Warriors closed out the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 105-97 win in Game 6 on Tuesday. Bleacher Report noted the significance of this year's Finals MVP win:
After averaging fewer than eight points per game during the regular season, Iguodala put up 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists on 52.1 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from long range in the Finals. And he did it all as LeBron James' exclusive defender for the latter half of the series.
In fact, Iguodala didn't even start in the Finals until Game 4, when a 2-1 deficit created by the Cavaliers' imposing size and James' total offensive control prompted head coach Steve Kerr to boldly go small. Iguodala replaced center Andrew Bogut in the first unit, and the Warriors never looked back, taking three straight games to clinch the title.
It was a brilliant, risky move—one that depended exclusively on Iguodala's do-it-all skills, as NBA gambler Haralabos Voulgaris noted:
Fortunately for the Warriors, Iguodala's game has long been defined by its malleability. Whatever a team needs, he does.
Kerr was quick to point out Iguodala's willingness to sacrifice extended all the way back to the preseason decision that shaped the Warriors' identity, telling reporters (via CBS Sports NBA):
Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton, who played with Iguodala at the University of Arizona, lauded the 11-year veteran after Game 5, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:
He's unbelievable at seeing what the team needs and giving the team that on certain nights. That's an uncommon ability in this league, because in this league, everybody wants their stats-- I want my stats, I want my points, I want my assists, I want my rebounds.'
Iguodala has never been about numbers, but one key statistic captures his value to the Warriors in this now-finished series, per John Schuhmann of NBA.com:
Sensing a need to speed the game up, Iguodala pushed the pace on rebounds all series. He moved the ball with his typical unselfishness, but when the Cavaliers forced him to beat them from the perimeter, he fought his pass-first instincts and fired away.
Kerr, a marksman during his playing days, appreciated the significance of Iguodala's aggression, per Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Iguodala didn't win the Warriors a ring on his own.
Draymond Green posted a triple-double in the Game 6 clincher, and his passing as the outlet when Cleveland sent relentless hard doubles at Stephen Curry was critical throughout the series.
Bogut took his benching like a professional, David Lee helped out in spurts, Harrison Barnes provided highlight jams and timely treys.
Festus Ezeli and Shaun Livingston chipped in 10 points apiece on Tuesday, for crying out loud.
There's also Curry, of course, who was still clearly the Warriors' most important player all season and all series. He made the Warriors go. He was the guy the Cavaliers feared above all others. Frankly, he's the reason Iguodala got so many open shots; Cleveland deliberately sent help away from Iguodala and toward Curry whenever the two shared the floor.
Yet when the moment called for it, Curry still found enough space to give his team vital boosts. He scored 17 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5, and he buried two huge threes to expand the Warriors' fourth-quarter lead on Tuesday.
For the series, Curry averaged 26 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists while hitting 38.5 percent of his threes. Not bad considering every shred of defensive energy employed by the Cavaliers was focused on stopping him.
If Curry had won Finals MVP, nobody would have batted an eye.
Speaking of which, it's now clear we'll never see an MVP from a losing team.
LeBron James was the best player in the series, carried an immense load and was probably the only human on the planet who could have kept his beleaguered Cavaliers from suffering four straight 30-point defeats. His averages of 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 45.8 minutes are patently absurd.
Iguodala, who'd know better than anybody, gave Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group his take on the man he spent all series guarding:
But James was just one player.
This was a title won by committee, by stars and role-fillers adjusting and doing whatever it took to end a 67-win season the only way 67-win seasons should end: with a ring.
It was fitting that Curry, the regular-season MVP and worldwide media darling, finished Game 6 with 25 points—the exact same total as Iguodala, his taciturn, media-averse, less-heralded Finals MVP teammate.
This year's Warriors were a team with a dual nature—glamorous and workmanlike in equal proportion. They played fast and loose on offense but buckled down better than anyone defensively. They were wild and disciplined, careless and careful, conspicuously brilliant and quietly effective.
Curry and Iguodala are the best representations of those two facets.
Both are MVPs.
Both are champions.