Warriors forward Andre Iguodala ruled out for Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/gsw" data-ylk="slk:Golden State Warriors">Golden State Warriors</a> forward <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3826/" data-ylk="slk:Andre Iguodala">Andre Iguodala</a> will miss Game 1 of the NBA Finals. (Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala will miss Game 1 of the NBA Finals. (Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors announced that forward Andre Iguodala will miss Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals with the left leg bruise that cost him the final four games of the Western Conference finals.

Iguodala, who won 2015 Finals MVP honors for his work opposite Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, was evaluated by team doctors on Tuesday. He will be reevaluated before Sunday’s Game 2.

“The evaluation indicated that Iguodala is making progress,” a statement said. “However, the pain that accompanies the bone bruise persists, as does inflammation of the nerve surrounding the left knee.”

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The announcement came less than an hour after the NBA announced Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love was excused from Wednesday’s media day, because he remains in the league’s concussion protocol. After missing all but five minutes of Game 6 against the Boston Celtics and all of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals, Love’s status also remains uncertain for the start of the Finals.

What does Iguodala’s status mean for the Warriors?

Yes, Golden State’s lineup still features four All-Stars, but Iguodala’s absence is no small concession. Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes his team would have beaten the Houston Rockets in five games had Iguodala not gotten hurt, which means he thinks the 34-year-old’s injury cost them at least two victories — and possibly the series, had Chris Paul not missed Games 6 and 7 with a hamstring strain.

As mentioned in our examination of why Warriors-Cavaliers IV remains a fascinating matchup, Iguodala’s absence prevents Golden State from playing the famed Hamptons Five lineup that causes nightmares for even the best defensive lineups. Instead, the Warriors will continue to rely on Kevon Looney, David West and JaVale McGee to fill in alongside their starters. That gives LeBron one more weak link to attack in the pick and roll, and it also gives Cavs coach Tyronn Lue somewhere to hide Tristan Thompson, who will be free to crowd the paint without a floor-stretching forward to chase.

The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by 60 points in the 141 minutes Iguodala was on the floor for last year’s Finals, and Cleveland outscored Golden State by 26 points in the 99 minutes he was on the bench. That 86-point on/off swing was at least 32 points greater than any of his All-Star teammates.

Is Andre Iguodala really the LeBron stopper?

No. Nobody is the LeBron stopper.

Iguodala earned his reputation as a LeBron slower in the 2015 Finals, when he helped hold the four-time MVP to 38 percent shooting in their 209 shared minutes, even as LeBron averaged 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in a virtuosic performance. Despite similar production and better shooting percentages in Cleveland’s 2016 Finals win, James still finished a minus-13 in the 223 minutes he played opposite Iguodala. The former Sixth Man of the Year defended LeBron for fewer minutes in last year’s Finals, when Kevin Durant drew the assignment, and LeBron was practically unstoppable.

There is enough evidence to argue either way about Iguodala’s defensive prowess against LeBron, but there is also this undeniable evidence: In the 555 minutes LeBron and Iguodala shared the floor in the past three Finals meetings, the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by 102 points, and in the 223 minutes LeBron was on the floor with Iguodala on the bench, Cleveland outscored Golden State by 96 points.

So, yeah, not having Iguodala on the court isn’t welcome news for the Warriors.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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