OAKLAND -- On a night when the Warriors hoped to get some impact scoring from Andre Iguodala, he opted for something better.
How about preserving the victory?
With the Warriors up three and 12.3 seconds remaining, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard was dribbling the clock away to set up his specialty, the buzzer-beating 3-pointer that in this instance would tie the game.
Iguodala wasn’t having it. He, too, has a specialty. He’s one of the game’s great thieves and he stripped the ball away from Lillard, extinguishing Portland’s last hope in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Thursday night and gift-wrapped a 114-111 win.
“We stole that game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after his team took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I got lucky,” Iguodala said facetiously.
No, this was a case of Father Time beat Dame Time. The wily 35-year-old in the gathering twilight of his career getting the best of the 28-year-old gunslinger.
“We knew we were going to go for the three, so I was just trying to get space to get a three up,” Lillard said. “I know it’s a tough position for the referees to be in to make that call at that point in the game. I tried to get a little bit of space the first time and he grabbed my arm and I lost the ball a little bit. I regained it and I was going to shoot it.
“He got his hand on the ball. As the offensive player, I felt like there was contact. There was a lot of contact. But, obviously, the ref is not going to decide the game or jump in at that point. So they ... good defensive play.”
Iggy secures the win with some 🔒 down defense pic.twitter.com/LflfWf3i2Z— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 17, 2019
Up until that point, Iguodala’s impact on the game had been relatively limited. He made his usual smart plays at both ends of the court, but he delivered nothing remotely resembling a highlight. He had four points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block over 31 minutes.
But Iguodala was on Lillard by design. If the Blazers were going to send this game into overtime, they’d have to do it over the guy who plays opponents as a cat does a mouse. It’s a natural trap.
“His hands are great, but sometimes his movements set it up,” Warriors assistant Ron Adams explained. “He becomes very decisive in moving. He’s darting. He’s feining. It’s a little bit like a boxer in that regard. His body mechanics have a way of putting the offensive player ill at ease.”
Iguodala was acutely aware of the time, the score and the man with the ball. He knew the Blazers needed a three to tie, so he made a point of being “extra aggressive” with Lillard.
“The key is not to give that up,” Iguodala said, referring to the 3-ball. “If the guy drives by you, then you still have the lead.”
Iguodala stripped the ball, grabbed it and flipped it to Stephen Curry, who tossed into the air as the clock ran out.
Game over. And consider it another example of Iguodala making a winning play on a night when he left the scoring to others.