Once the Cleveland Cavaliers got the ball back with 26 seconds left and the score tied 98-98 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, everyone in the building knew LeBron James was going to take the final shot, including Andre Iguodala, the Warriors sixth-man who had guarded him for most of the night.
Iguodala was in a similar situation last season when LeBron hit a game-winning jumper over him for the Miami Heat:
This time, it was different result. Iguodala stayed closer to LeBron, and his outstretched left arm forced LeBron to take an even more highly-contested shot, which bounced off the rim.
Iguodala told Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver after the game that the memory of giving up that game-winner last season helped him predict what James was going to do this time around:
“Last year he beat us on a similar shot. You get a feel for guys, what they want to do. … I kind of knew what play he wanted to get into. Just going left, step-back. I was right there on him, and he was still able to get it off. At that point, you just want percentages to kick in and help you out.”
Iguodala certainly had a feel for LeBron the entire game. While LeBron would finish the game with 44 points, most of the damage was done against Harrison Barnes or other Golden State defenders. When LeBron was guarded by Iguodala, he struggled:
Prior to this season, Iguodala started every game throughout his 10-year career, but after Barnes’ flourished as the team’s starting small forward, Steve Kerr asked Iguodala — who signed a $US48 million contract in 2013 — to take a reserve role this year. He has excelled as the Warrior’s sixth-man ever since.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told CBS Sports’ Matt Moore after the game. “Andre is one of the smartest defenders I’ve ever seen. I mean, he understands angles, he understands where everybody is on the floor. you know, it’s funny to say when a guy gets 44 points that the defender did a really good job, but I thought Andre did extremely well. [He] made LeBron take some tough shots.”
Iguodala didn’t just have a strong defensive game, he was instrumental in the Warriors offensive attack as well. He shot 6-for-8 from the field and 2-for-3 from behind the arc. He finished with 15 points, with 10 of them coming after the final minute of the third quarter.
During the Warriors fourth quarter run, Iguodala lost his shoe just past half court, but continued to run to the corner where Curry found him wide open for a three to bring the Warriors within one:
Iguodala will look to follow up his stellar performance when the Warriors and Cavaliers square off in Game 2 at Oracle Arena Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.
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