The Golden State Warriors were In the midst of pummeling the Houston Rockets on Sunday evening in Game 3, and with under eight minutes left, the focus slowly started to shift to Game 4.
Andre Iguodala easily was having his best game of the series. He looked springy when he followed up his missed jumper with a two-hand slam. He was active defensively, coming up with three steals.
Rockets guard James Harden tried to drive by the crafty Iguodala, but as he started to make a move, his right knee rammed into the side of Iguodala’s left knee. Iguodala grabbed his left leg, grimacing for a few possessions before finally getting pulled.
It later was revealed that he suffered a left lateral leg contusion, forcing the 2015 NBA Finals MVP to miss Game 4’s loss, a loss that snapped the Warriors’ NBA-record 16-game home playoff winning streak, and gave the home court advantage back to the Rockets as the Western Conference Finals shifts back to Houston for Game 5, tied 2-2.
“He’s a great defender,” coach Steve Kerr said before Game 4. “He’s an organizer. He’s a guy who settles us down. He continuously makes the right play. We’ll miss all of that.”
Kerr was right: Iguodala’s presence was missed. The Warriors turned the ball over 16 times, but their offensive ineptitude in the fourth quarter — where they were 3-of-18 from the floor to go along with four turnovers — further proved why Golden State’s front office was correct in giving Iguodala a three-year deal worth around $48 million.
I’m not exaggerating by saying that Iguodala’s health can cost the Warriors their third championship in four years. His role in the famed Hamptons Five lineup is vital, as he’s able to guard multiple positions, handle the rock, and slash.
He’s questionable to play in Game 5, potentially leaving the Warriors without one of their top wing defenders for the second consecutive game.
“He’s feeling a little better today,” Kerr said ahead of Game 5. “He’s out on the floor, not doing a whole lot but making progress.”
Bob Myers, the Warriors’ general manager and President of Basketball Operations, joined Greg Papa and I on 95.7 The Game on Wednesday afternoon.
“So, as we sit here now, hopefully, he can go tomorrow,” Myers said. “I know he’s going to do everything he can but he’s going to see how it feels tonight, tomorrow morning. But it wasn’t even a situation where he was even close last night where he could have played.”
Considering the travel and 48-hour turnaround, Kerr has to rely on the likes of Nick Young, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell to play extended minutes, which is becoming more and more dangerous against these mentally-tough Rockets.
There is some good news for the Warriors. Kerr said Klay Thompson — who suffered a left knee strain in the first half of Game 4 — is moving around really well and thinks he’ll be fine for Game 5.
After blowing a 12-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 4 and fumbling away a possible 3-1 series lead, the narrative would no doubt be different heading into this swing game, had Iguodala played in Game 4.
The Warriors have enough talent to outlast the Rockets, even with Iguodala sidelined, however, the journey to the NBA Finals has become a bit more challenging without the 34-year-old veteran.
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