OAKLAND -- With the finish line in view and the money close enough to touch, Andre Iguodala found his overdrive gear.
And he hit it. Hard.
As Kevin Durant was wrapping up his NBA Finals MVP award, as Stephen Curry was burying the Cavaliers in Game 5 of The Finals and coach Steve Kerr was dealing with very real agony and ecstasy, Iguodala stepped from the relative shadows of the Warriors bench to remind observers he remains a difference-maker.
“Andre lives for the big moment,” Draymond Green said after Iguodala’s sterling performance in a 129-120 victory that gave the Warriors their second championship in three seasons.
Iguodala scored 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, adding three rebounds and three assists, leading the way as the Warriors reserves outscored those of the Cavs 35-7.
Yet the most impressive total was 38, the number of minutes Iguodala played. It was the highest total of the postseason for the veteran forward.
“Steve and I had an interesting conversation this morning in shootaround, and he said, How many minutes you got?’ ” Igoudala recalled. “I said, ‘Whatever you need. I'll be ready.’ And I kind of just had a good feeling, that inkling like tonight's the night to attack and get it over with.”
Iguodala said he had been particularly “stressed” as the playoffs have progressed. He pursues perfection, and even as the team flirted with it felt there could be more attention to detail. These anxieties sometimes clashed with the acceptance that his role on this team, at this time, is to facilitate.
Oh, and he’s going to be a free agent next month.
“And it's stressful because it's a hard job that goes unnoticed,” he said. “You have to embrace it. It's really just sacrificing to make sure everybody else is eating.
“But then you want to look for yourself sometimes. Like you want to show people what you can do. And it just so happens that it's always been perfect timing. I think that's more of a blessing than anything else, is like when it's time for me to be a little bit more selfless and show what I can do, like nights like this or the whole Finals in 2015, it just shows that there's something powerful up there that I believe in that's working through me.”
Iguodala is 33 years old, and neither a consistent scorer nor a deadeye shooter. His knees require regular maintenance. His impact during the 17-game postseason ranged from negligible to essential.
He’s also one of the league’s smartest players, someone who sees and feels the game as well as anyone -- at both ends of the court. He also prepares like few others. And in Game 5, he was there when he was needed.
“Andre was unbelievable,” veteran big man David West said. “He was in the gym at 8 o’clock this morning.”
The prep work occasionally results in pivotal plays, such as Iguodala’s soaring, majestic dunk in the second quarter. With 7:58 left in the half, he concluded a blip of a 6-0 run that cut an eight-point deficit to two and forced a Cleveland timeout.
It was a signature moment of a game that ended with confetti falling and the Warriors taking a stage to receive trophies.
“He's one of the best professionals I've ever been around,” Klay Thompson said. “And two years ago he went to the bench, and it rewarded him; he was Finals MVP. Same thing this year. The guy's an Olympian, a champion, an All-Star, and one of the most complete players I ever played with. He just makes everyone around him better.”
Kerr most assuredly values Iguodala’s presence, perhaps more than his teammates. It’s why the negotiations between the Warriors and Iguodala will be interesting, even as both sides have maintained their desire to continue the relationship.