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The N.B.A. Finals’ Big Moment Finds Andre Iguodala, an Unselfish Warrior

June 14, 2017 Taylor 0

OAKLAND, Calif. — On the morning of what would prove to be their final day of the postseason, the Golden State Warriors held a voluntary shootaround at their practice site. Everyone showed up. At one point, Coach Steve Kerr made his way over to Andre Iguodala and asked him a simple question: “How many minutes you got?”

The Warriors were a few hours from facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals. In truth, Kerr’s question was more of a plea. He desperately wanted to close out the Cavaliers at home, and he hoped he could rely on Iguodala — even more than usual — to help make that happen.

“Whatever you need,” Iguodala recalled telling Kerr. “I’ll be ready.”

It was a subtle exchange that stuck with Iguodala, 33, as he prepared for the game. It gave him a good feeling, he said, knowing that his coach planned to lean on him. Sure enough, Iguodala went out Monday night and assembled one of the finest games of his career. He defended LeBron James. He hopped into his time machine and soared for dunks. He encouraged his teammates and enthralled the crowd.

“Andre lives for the big moment,” his teammate Draymond Green said.

By the end of the evening, Iguodala was a champion for the second time: Warriors 129, Cavaliers 120. He also made good on his pledge to Kerr, contributing 38 minutes 7 seconds of near-flawless playing time off the bench. He scored 20 points and shot 9 of 14 from the field. The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by 18 points when he was on the court.

“I’ve been so stressed the last three, four weeks,” Iguodala said. “I told my wife right after the game, like: ‘I’m so sorry. It’s just been so stressful.’”

If nothing else, Iguodala has a unique ability to channel that stress for the greater good.

In Game 5, Kerr shortened his rotation. Ian Clark and JaVale McGee, who had been steady reserves throughout the postseason, did not shed their warm-ups. Instead, Kerr broke the emergency glass and summoned Iguodala to supply the most minutes he had in a game since December. In so many ways, Iguodala held it all together.

“You have to embrace it,” he said. “It’s really just sacrificing to make sure everybody else is eating. But then you want to look for yourself sometimes. Like, you want to show people what you can do.”

Iguodala is as much a symbol of the Warriors’ willingness to sacrifice as anyone on the team. At the start of the 2014-15 season, which was Kerr’s first as the Warriors’ coach, Kerr persuaded Iguodala, a former All-Star, to give up his role as a starter and come off the bench. Iguodala agreed to do it, and the Warriors went on to defeat the Cavaliers in the finals that season.