The stat line wasn’t much (two points and two assists in 17 minutes), but the Warriors needed Andre Iguodala to return soon just so they could have another game like this. Turns out he he came back after a loss that upset Mark Jackson so much that he called the players’ desire into question.
The combination of added motivation and Iguodala propelled the Warriors to a 88-65 lead after three quarters in a game Golden State would eventually win 104-93.
The Warriors were probably going to win big over the Pelicans even without Iguodala. The coach finally blasted the entire team publicly instead of just the bench after a sloppy defeat in Phoenix, and New Orleans is an awful team without Anthony Davis (who looked like a top-10 player before breaking his hand) and Tyreke Evans.
When Lou Amundson is your sixth man and Austin Rivers takes more shots than anyone other than Ryan Anderson, your team’s personnel is sorely lacking.
Hornets Pelicans (smh) had a .500 record coming in and weren’t doing all that poorly without Davis (3-3 without him, and they won the game in which he got hurt early on). The Warriors were a loss away from dropping to .500, which was another reason why they needed this victory. More than anything else, it was nice for the team to go back to what they were doing a lot while Iguodala was healthy.
That includes jumping all over a struggling team early. It also includes movement. Not just ball movement on offense, but smarter movements on both ends of the floor that minimize those much-maligned turnovers, as well as easy shots for the opposition. Before even being in the game for five minutes, Iguodala was directing David Lee where to go when the Pelicans were in transition. He’s almost like a traffic cop, making it easy for everyone to navigate a crowded area.
“I got tired of watching. You get a new appreciation for the game, especially seeing your brothers struggle,” said Iguodala, who watched a lot of mediocre basketball while rehabilitating his hamstring injury.
“The assist to turnover ratio hasn’t been too good the last couple weeks,” Iguodala said. “We wanted to get back to where we were high in assists and low in turnovers, at least as high in assists. That starts by good possessions offensively. In turn it helps us get back in transition and not give up too many easy baskets.”
The Warriors had 25 assists compared to just 12 turnovers, a ratio of over 2-to-1.
Stephen Curry had been asked to do most of the scoring, dribbling and creating during Iguodala’s absence, and while he went for 28 points and 12 assists on the night he only needed about 33 minutes to get those numbers. And things just looked easier for Curry … no surprise there.
The highlight-reel dunk that almost was
Curry also threw two lobs on the night that turned into crowd-pleasing dunks — one thrown down by Andrew Bogut off an inbounds play and one converted by Iguodala.
“I’m sure he’s got another level he wants to get to, to get back to full strength,” Curry said. “But to see him have confidence in his body to be able to take off and show his athleticism, I’m sure that was a good feeling for him. It was good to see that and the crowd, they missed that.”
The lob dunk was nice, but there was a play Iguodala almost made that had the locker room buzzing afterward. Iguodala had the ball in the lane, took a dribble and went up and ALMOST threw one down over New Orleans center Jason Smith, who was credited with the block.
David Lee — who had his best game in a while and said afterward that he doesn’t read anything said about him in the media, positive or negative (got to love it when athletes and coaches say that) — was chatting with Marreese Speights in the locker room afterward. They agreed that if Iguodala would’ve been able to finish that play, it would’ve been a top-10 dunk this season.
I asked Lee about that conversation.
“I think the move was almost better than the dunk. I think it was kind of a sign that he’s feeling better that he was able to get up that quick off one leg,” Lee said.
“I dunked like a week after I got hurt. It wasn’t jumping that I would be restricted from, it was more or less moving laterally and defensively,” said Iguodala, who also noted that he took a ton of standstill shots during the evenings to maintain his touch while he was out.
“I was over (Smith), but he did a good job of putting his hand on top of the cylinder. I actually dunked his hand. It looked like he got hurt a little bit. But it just felt good to get up. That was kind of a test, and we’ll just keep pushing it as each day goes.”
Iguodala’s future progression, and … sigh … the bench
I asked Iguodala if he expected to play more minutes in the Warriors’ upcoming game against the Spurs on Thursday.
“I’m sure I will. We’ll be cautious. Tonight I didn’t need to go out there and play 25, 30. We did the work that we were supposed to do while I was out there on the court,” said Iguodala.
True, but there was a time in the fourth quarter, after Iguodala’s night was over, when the bench squandered a good chunk of the lead. That forced Mark Jackson to take out Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Nedovic, Kent Bazemore and Speights with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans came within 13.
“Disappointing, but it happens,” Jackson said. “I really believe that there will be a point this year where our bench will propel us and win ballgames. Right now, they haven’t found it. They had a great opportunity to play extended minutes and dropped the ball.”
Big Game Barnes?
Amundson raked Barnes in the eye in the second quarter, but Barnes was able to return in the second half after shrugging off what was called a “left eyelid abrasion.”
I was hoping against hope that he’d come back wearing goggles, and not just to protect his eyes. What if the goggles magically made Barnes start to play like James Worthy? Sounds ridiculous, but they’re both athletic wings who are about the same size (Worthy is 6-9, Barnes is 6-8). They also both went to North Carolina. Maybe goggles would be just the thing to unlock the Worthyness of Barnes’ game.