After dropping consecutive games and looking unlike themselves in the NBA Finals, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr knew he had to make a change.
That came in the form of a lineup tweak as Kerr chose to start Andre Iguodala and move Draymond Green to centre for a smaller, space-friendly team.
Following a slow start in which they trailed 7-0 to open the contest, Golden State found their rhythm and put away the Cleveland Cavaliers handily in the end with a 103-82 victory in Game 4 to even the series at 2-2.
Kerr played the decision to start Iguodala close to the vest, despite telling the media before tip-off that no line-up changes were coming.
“I lied,” Kerr said in the postgame press conference. “Sorry, but I don’t think they hand you the trophy based on morality. They give it to you if you win. So sorry about that.”
— NBA (@NBA) June 12, 2015
Iguodala, starting for the first time this season, was essential in slowing down LeBron James, who was held to 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting after averaging 41.0 points through the first three games.
There was a moment of concern in the second quarter as James suffered two cuts to the right side of his head on a camera after falling into a photographer. He also battled leg cramps and fatigue in the second half.
James said he had a lingering headache after the game but did not undergo the NBA’s concussion protocols. Instead, he went back into the game but struggled, eventually retiring to the bench with five minutes remaining.
“I was hoping our team could buy me a few minutes. I was pretty much gassed,” James said. “We weren’t able to do that in the fourth quarter. It’s difficult. You want to be out there but you want to be effective while you are out there.”
Iguodala was just as crucial on the opposite end of the floor, where he tied with Stephen Curry for a team-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-9 on 3-pointers.
“He’s been our best player through four games,” Kerr said. “He guards LeBron pretty much every possession that he’s out there, and his offense has been terrific.”
Iguodala, known for his defensive skillset and ability to take on top scorers, has made life more difficult for James whenever he’s been matched on the four-time MVP.
“We’ve got a lot of great players in this league that can score the ball in bunches,” Iguodala said. “You know, it’s like 10 or 15 guys in this league. I’ve had a chance to guard all of them. I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
The line-up move also benefited Green, who took advantage of his quickness edge and found his shooting touch with 17 points on 6-of-11 makes from the field.
Coming into the game, Green had scored 29 points in total for the series and was shooting at an inefficient 34.1 per cent clip.
Game 4 wasn’t technically a must-win for the Warriors, but it was crucial nonetheless. All 32 teams who have taken a 3-1 series lead in the Finals went on to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The Finals, now a best-of-three, return to the Bay for Game 5 tomorrow at Oracle Arena.
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