The Warriors asked Andre Iguodala to come back not because he is a sentimental favorite but because they believe he will help them make another run to the top of the NBA.
Iguodala agreed to come back not because he was eager to sign a $2.6 million veteran’s minimum contract – hardly – but because he wants finish his career in a familiar place that fully understands and appreciates his comprehensive gifts.
The best of this remarriage is yet to come, but the reasons behind it were on full display Friday night in a laborious 111-107 victory over the Celtics at TD Garden in Boston.
When the Warriors needed stability and balance, Iguodala delivered. When they needed to raise their energy, he was there to lift it. When they needed a big shot, he was there to make it. When they needed a pivotal defensive play, well, he took care of that, too.
“Andre was brilliant,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Boston. “He made a huge steal late, that kind of sealed the win. Knocked down a couple 3s that were very important, the one at the end of the shot clock late in the fourth quarter was maybe the shot of the game.
“Andre was vintage Andre tonight. He was crucial in every way.”
Which is why in the fourth quarter of a tight game, also known as “winning time,” Iguodala played more minutes than any other Warrior.
Iguodala practically owned a critical stage of the fourth quarter. After a Jayson Tatum 3-pointer gave the Celtics their first lead (84-82, 11:25 remaining) since the opening minutes, Iguodala over the next 96 seconds dropped in a reverse layup to pull into a tie, hammered a dunk and assisted on a Nemanja Bjelica 3-pointer that gave the Warriors a 92-86 lead.
After Boston pulled within one with 7:44 remaining, Iguodala buried a 28-foot 3-ball to put the lead back to four. The Warriors held the lead for the duration.
All told, Iguodala came off the bench to produce 12 points (5-of-9 from the field, 2-of-6 from distance), six assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He was plus-10 over 24 minutes.
“I’ve been doing this for a while,” the 18-year veteran said blithely during an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Postgame Live.
Curry scored a game-high 30 points. Andrew Wiggins finished with 27, 18 of which came with cyclonic force in the second quarter. A third scorer was needed to succeed. That’s usually not Iguodala, but he has a knack for analyze action in real time, and then putting into practice what most benefits the team.
On this night, what the Warriors needed were a few more buckets.
“I see certain things on the court,” he said, “and it’s like, ‘OK, this is what they’re doing with that guy.’ Tonight, Kanter (now known as Enes Freedom) was all the way off of me. And I’ve seen a ton of things. Me and Wiggins countered it, and Wiggins went crazy in the second quarter. And Wiggins and I haven’t played as much this year at all. But we picked it right up.”
At 37 (he’ll turn 38 next month), Iguodala’s lightning-strike hand quickness remains peerless among NBA players. Both steals and one of the blocks were the result of his hands moving too fast for the Celtics to secure the ball.
Wiggins, a longtime opponent in his second month as a teammate, is aware of Iguodala’s legendary ball thievery – often at critical moments – so he is not surprised that the old man’s hands still are quicker than the eye.
“Nah,” Wiggins said. “His (hands) are special. His are special.”
This is a game that could have gone to the Celtics. Probably would have, if not for Iguodala. He proved that he is more than a mentor to the rookies, more than an adviser to the veterans, more than a guy who longs for his next chance to play golf with Curry.
Oh, he is all of those things – but still has skills that shine in a pinch.
“I’m old and on a minimum,” Iguodala joked on Postgame Live.
“I’m always going to play above my salary.”
Iguodala’s statistics in this game were nice. His broad impact was nicer. That’s what the Warriors anticipated when they signed him, and it’s what he expects to contribute – no matter the size of his paycheck.