(Reuters) - While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson led the Golden State Warriors in scoring during a gripping win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opener to the NBA Finals, reserve Andre Iguodala was the team’s unsung hero.
Iguodala, a 31-year-old veteran competing in his 11th NBA season, was a towering presence at both ends of the court on Thursday as he contributed 15 points on six-of-eight shooting, along with three rebounds and two steals.
Most importantly, he was tasked with defending four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James for much of the game at a packed Oracle Arena in Oakland as the Warriors won a tight contest 108-100 in overtime.
”I thought he was fantastic,“ Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters about Iguodala. ”Andre is one of the smartest defenders I’ve ever seen. He understands angles, he understands where everybody is on the floor.
”You know, it’s funny to say when a guy (James) 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.
“Then offensively, he (Iguodala) got going. He made a big three in the corner late in the game. But Andre has been fantastic all year. The numbers don’t always show it, but he’s a great player for us.”
Iguodala, an NBA All-Star in 2012 who has also played for the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets, led an impressive Golden State bench who outscored Cleveland 34-9 in Game One.
“I do believe in our depth,” said Kerr. “We play a lot of people and we feel like over the course of a game and maybe in overtime, we can keep fighting and good things will happen.”
Good things certainly happened for them in overtime where Golden State outscored Cleveland 10-2 to draw first blood in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
”The adrenaline was flowing, but it was a nice flow,“ Iguodala said of his energy in Game One. ”It wasn’t too high, and it kind of stayed with me the whole night.
“But we have a lot of bodies and a lot of guys we threw at LeBron. He made some tough shots, and that’s what we’re going to try to do throughout the whole series is make him take tough shots.”
Game Two is Sunday in Oakland.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue