CLEVELAND — Andre Iguodala was more than just a key player on a team that beat LeBron James and Cleveland.
Turns out he used to beat up on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
“We beat the first unit more times than they beat us, and I think it was by a landslide,” Iguodala said.
So good, so deep that the MVP of the NBA Finals never started a game all season, the Warriors built the kind of squad that can compete for many NBA titles.
And when they were in trouble trying to win this one, down 2-1 in the series, they inserted Iguodala into the lineup. He responded with the same defensive effort he had been providing against James along with unsuspected offense, including 25 points Tuesday in the Game 6 clincher.
“He was great the entire series. But he saved this season for us,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “I always say Andre’s a pro’s pro. He’s a professional guy, and it showed, and that’s why he’s the MVP of this series, and that’s why we’re champions.”
One of the reasons, anyway.
There’s also Curry, the regular-season MVP who delivered a couple of big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that helped the Warriors build a big enough lead to withstand Cleveland’s late comeback. And there was Green, the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up who bounced back from a poor start to the series to finish with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists Tuesday.
Throw in 10 points apiece off the bench from Shaun Livingston and Festus Ezeli, or David Lee re-emerging earlier in the series after falling out of the rotation, and the Warriors still had plenty of firepower off the bench even once Iguodala was no longer part of it.
Iguodala was the primary defender on James, but as James said, “It’s never 1-on-1.”
“But I think his ability to play multiple positions for their team along with some of those other guys allowed their team to be so dynamic,” James added.
Iguodala was a former No. 1 option in Philadelphia who won gold with the U.S. Olympic team in 2012. Lee has made multiple All-Star teams. Livingston was a one-time No. 4 pick in the draft who has become a valuable and versatile player after overcoming a devastating knee injury earlier in his career.
“Well, it speaks to the character of the players more than anything. (General manager) Bob Myers and his staff have done an incredible job of putting together this roster,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I was well aware of the versatility that the roster had, but as I got to know the players I realized they had what it took spiritually, emotionally. They were united. They wanted to win.”
They are good enough to do it again, provided they keep Green and Harrison Barnes once they are eligible for free agency, and if they can find a way to overcome the rugged Western Conference. Plenty of teams that looked great one year couldn’t do it the next on the stronger side of the NBA bracket.
But not many of those teams had what these Warriors had, a team that ultimately won 83 games, more than any team other than Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
“I think we definitely are a great team, and a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom,” Curry said. “We have a lot of things to be proud of this season.”
Including, perhaps, showing how the NBA is won nowadays. The old ideas about teams that play small and rely on outside shooting not being able to win an NBA title — the ones Charles Barkley has promoted for years — are gone now. Golden State shot them down with 67 wins in the regular season and a powerful run through the postseason.
Maybe now a team built in that style will show other teams how they have to construct their rosters.
“Well, I mean, we’ll see,” Curry said. “We found a recipe for success, and that’s the most important thing for us.”