Stretch Run Is Here, and So Is Andre Iguodala - NBC Bay Area

Stretch Run Is Here, and So Is Andre Iguodala

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Better Sleep = Better Grades
    Monte Poole
    Stretch run is here, and so is Andre Iguodala

    Must be March. Must be time to sprint because Andre Iguodala is showing up in full, and when that happens it's really difficult for the Warriors to lose a basketball game.

    Igoudala has been a factor for most of the season. Sure, there were times when he was a step late on a defensive rotation or opted out of wide-open looks well within his usual range. There were moments during home games when the crowd seemed to feel the struggles of the 34-year-old wing and yearn for the Andre of yore.

    See him now? He's still doing the "inside basketball" stuff that lies at the heart of his value, but he is adding the kind of standout plays that can't be missed.

    The latest example came Friday night in Atlanta, where Iguodala made a couple plays in the fourth quarter to lock up a 114-109 win over the persistent Hawks.

    "That was impressive," Kevin Durant said. "That's why y'all need to start watching Andre a little bit more and stop looking at the stats."

    Durant has been consistent in his incisive defense of his veteran teammate. On this night, he was inarguably on target. Iguodala's numbers -- 9 points, six assists, five rebounds, one block and one steal -- don't leap off the box score unless you scan the full breadth of the sheet, paying closest attention to the score.

    Iguodala's block of a Dennis Schroder shot landed in the hands of Klay Thompson, who whipped a pass to Iguodala, who sprinted into transition the instant he got a piece of the ball. He finished with a dunk that gave the Warriors a 103-100 lead with 6:13 to play.

    That was the warm-up to his final act. With the Warriors clinging to a 112-109 lead, the Hawks in possession and 10 seconds remaining, Iguodala swiped Kent Bazemore's dribble and raced in for another dunk, this one sealing the game.

    "It was a helluva play," coach Steve Kerr said. "That is an attacking defensive play. It was pretty impressive just to basically take the ball from Kent and go down and finish the game. That was amazing."

    Tucked beneath that swipe-and-slam, though, was Iguodala's greatest asset. His intellect. One of the wisest players in the NBA analyzed the full set of circumstances and took a smart gamble.

    "It was just all feel, honestly," he said "You're up three, so, worst-case scenario, you don't want to give up a 3. So you just pressure him up. If you get beat, a 2 won't kill you. So you can be a little bit aggressive in those situations. I was timing things up throughout the game, counting people's cadence and pace, and I got a little lucky."

    Iguodala has been both lucky and good in five games, all victories, since the All-Star break, shooting 68 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from deep, 4.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 blocks.

    But those are numbers. With Iguodala, numbers are a bonus.

    What's more encouraging to the Warriors is that he looks revivified. Always devoted to body and mind, including routine yoga sessions, he is livelier and more aggressive. And effectiveness has followed. It's not a coincidence that the Warriors are playing some of their best ball when Iguodala is playing some of his best ball.

    "I'm OK; I'm getting there," he said before sliding the focus away from the individual.

    "This is a weird trip for us," he added. "It's good that we got these wins. Tuesday will be a trap game. We have to be careful with that one as well. These were three tough games. We were really off as far as our bodies and sleeping."

    It was seven weeks ago that Iguodala, discussing his errant shooting, was unsparing in his assessment. "I just suck," he said. "Play good defense, though."

    That was January, and he wasn't wrong. It's now March and that he's playing well is not surprising. The team's goal is coming sharply into focus, and that's when Iguodala tends to summon the best of his game.