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Andre Iguodala gets to start and his defense boosts Warriors

Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors drives

Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second quarter during Game Four of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 11, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ronald Martinez

CLEVELAND - During the Warriors' run to the Finals and their attempt to end a 40-year championship drought, probably no one has sacrificed more than Andre Iguodala.

The Warriors' swingman set aside his ego for the betterment of the team, going along with the plan when Golden State's rookie coach Steve Kerr asked Iguodala to come off the bench for the first time in his 11-year career. But things changed before Game 4.

With the Warriors trailing 2-1 in the NBA Finals, Kerr inserted Iguodala into the starting lineup and the move paid huge dividends, propelling Golden State to two consecutive wins that had the Warriors knocking on the championship door at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday night.

MVP Stephen Curry gets most of the attention thanks to his flashy dribbling exhibitions and uncanny shooting ability. But Iguodala arguably has been as important as anyone for the Warriors on both ends of the floor. He averaged 14.6 points, six rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals through the first five games, knocking down 54.9 percent of his attempts and draining 40.7 percent beyond the three-point arc.

His defensive effort in trying to contain LeBron James has gotten noticed, too.

"He does everything for us," Kerr said. "He's our best defender on LeBron. He's an incredible decision-maker. I mean seven assists, no turnovers [in Game 5]. He rebounds. He guards everybody. When he's off LeBron, he goes on to a shooter and stays at home with the shooters and challenges shots. He's a brilliant defensive player."

That may even be an understatement.

Cleveland hasn't had much success trying to score against Iguodala. In the first five games of the series, the Cavaliers shot just 39.4 percent when Iguodala was the primary defender. That includes a 31.1 percent showing inside the three-point line.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, James' lone struggles in these Finals have come when he has been guarded by Iguodala. Through the series' first five games, James shot 35.2 percent from the floor with Iguodala guarding him, which represents a noticeable dip given he had canned 40 percent of his attempts overall while averaging 36.6 points per game.

By comparison, in last year's Finals with the Heat, James shot 57.6 percent against San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard.

"It sort of evolved to this," Kerr said. "We knew he would be the primary guy once he was in, but his minutes are way up. But we figured we'd send a lot of different people at him, which we have. But because Andre has played so well in the series, he gets most of the minutes on him."

Iguodala isn't necessarily looking for any congratulatory pats on the back. It's all in a simple day's work.

"I think just being in the league for 11 years and never being in this moment and knowing how hard it is, I'm just excited to get back on the court and just playing as hard as possible," Iguodala said after Game 5. "Win, lose or draw, just knowing I gave it my all throughout the whole process. I don't think a trophy or a ring can really signify who you are as a person, but the work you put in kind of says it all.

"I've just been through a lot this year. A lot about what happened early in the year I think was blown out of proportion. I've just enjoyed my teammates, and they've been working really hard. We've got this goal in mind, and we've just been fighting trying to get it."


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