Iguodala emerges as star of series opener

Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Oakland on Thursday. (Ezra Shaw, Getty Images via AP, Pool)

So why should we be surprised by anything — and that’s anything — Andre Iguodala does, or maybe considering the (ooh!) low grab, intentional or unintentional by the Cavs’ Matthew Dellavedova, by anything that’s done to Iggy?

This is dog-bites-man stuff, the fact Iguodala can enter a game and as calmly and reflectively as he pointed out, play like every small detail matters. Which of course in playoff basketball, it does. Iguodala is not the only reason the Warriors won the opener of the NBA finals from the Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-89, but surely is a prime reason.

Especially to his teammates, who treat him with the respect and awe the fans and, yes, the media, give to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

You’ve heard it before, what people like Iguodala and Shaun Livingston contribute is not always noted in the box score — although since Livingston scored a team-high 20 (or, yikes, what Steph, 11, and Klay, 9, had together) on Wednesday night at the “Roaracle” it could be noted.

Yes, Curry is a two-time MVP, but Iguodala, for his defense of LeBron James and his willingness to do whatever else was required, was last year’s NBA finals MVP. Off the bench.

Where he and Livingston began Wednesday evening, which for Iggy — those shots to the groin make one wince even from afar — turned out both satisfying and painful.

There’s a stat in basketball (OK, I lied I said Andre’s contributions are not always in the box score), plus/minus, meaning how his team progresses or regresses when he’s in the game. Iguodala was plus 21, with Livingston a plus 20. On the other side — the underside? — Dellavedova was minus-19. LeBron was minus-nine.

Iggy was on the Olympic team. Iggy was at the University of Arizona when one of his teammates was Luke Walton, who of course is a Warriors assistant and any day now (no more than six games) will become Lakers head coach. For the record, Walton is 36, Iguodala 34. Been there, done that.

Iguodala was on the court 35 minutes, 52 seconds — or two fewer seconds than Curry. He also had 12 points, one more than Curry, but let us emphasize the intangibles, since that’s what the rest of the Warriors do with Iggy. He works them over in practice, so they overlook nothing in competition.

“He’s just an incredible two-way player,” Thompson said of Iguodala. “His defense is second to none. It’s an honor just to play with him, and I get better playing with him every day in practice.”

Center Andrew Bogut was no less complimentary. “You can’t quantify his value,” said Bogut, “because he does so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He guards their best player night in and night out. He’s such a smart player. His basketball IQ is out of this world.”

Until he was acquired in trade by the Warriors before the 2014-15, Iguodala had been a starter, and he spoke during the finals a year ago about the difficulty in coming in once a game was underway. That’s no longer a problem.

“I’ve been able to build a good rhythm in our system,” said Iguodala. “There’s a comfort level now. Especially coming in with Shaun. We’re of the same thoughts. We’ve had success, and now I embrace it.”

He’s not exactly prepared to embrace Dellavedova, who last year roughed up Curry.

“It was down there where most men don’t want to be hit,” Iguodala said, “but I respect guys who hustle. Sometimes it gets physical.”

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes onwww.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

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