Barber: Andre Iguodala is man of the moment as Warriors beat Raptors 109-104

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TORONTO — They were two stretches of basketball that ran roughly 5 minutes each, and they bore little resemblance except for one thing: Andre Iguodala emerged as the hero of both.

The Warriors’ 109-104 win against the Raptors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals was an epic of the genre. The Return of Boogie. Klay’s Bad Landing. Curry Just Adds Water. Dusting Off Bogut. Quinn Cook Makes an Impact. Draymond vs. Siakam. Thanks, Obama. This one had so many facets, it could be been one of the diamonds that will eventually grace the rings of the team that wins this series.

If that team is the Warriors, they will look back at Sunday’s game as a major turning point. And they will remember Iguodala as the man who defined those two 5-minute runs.

The first came right after halftime. The Warriors had ended the second quarter on a 6-1 run, preventing a full collapse in the face of another Canadian cascade. But they still trailed 59-54 after 24 minutes. I don’t have to tell you how dire the situation would be if the Warriors had returned to Oakland trailing 2-0 against a younger, faster, hungrier opponent.

They needed one of their big third-quarter runs. And good heavens, did they get one.

The Warriors team that emerged from the locker room at halftime was the one everyone had been waiting for (well, everyone but the Raptors, I suppose) since these Finals started. In one glorious 5-minute, 25-second stretch, the champions could almost literally do nothing wrong. Golden State hit 8 of 12 shots while Toronto went 0 for 8. The Warriors grabbed nine rebounds; the Raptors had three. Toronto sputtered into five turnovers, including three in a 35-second span.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse called two timeouts during the blitz, and neither did much to help. It was a disaster for the Eastern Conference champions. And in this game, it would prove fatal.

When the dust settled, the Warriors had completed an 18-0 run, building a lead of 72-59. We have come to expect this sort of flash flood of points over the past five years. But considering the context and the totality of the rout, this one was hard to top.

And Iguodala seemed to be in the middle of everything during those 5 minutes and 25 seconds. He started the rock rolling with a long 2-point jumper from the left side at 11:01, walled off Toronto’s Marc Gasol on a Stephen Curry bank shot at 10:43, cashed in a wide-open 3-pointer from the right side at 10:11, stole the ball from Kyle Lowry at 9:31, rebounded Gasol’s miss at 8:40, blocked Pascal Siakam’s shot at 8:21, rebounded another miss at 7:45 and snagged yet another at 6:40.

“He ignited it, I think,” Golden State’s Alfonzo McKinnie said of Iguodala. “He got stops, and then he got buckets. I mean, Andre been great all year. Veteran guy, has a lot of experience. Knows how to play the game the right way.”

Iguodala was everywhere. And there was no reason to expect that to happen.

At the 3:27 mark of the second quarter, as Norman Powell drained a 3 to bump the Raptors’ lead to 50-40, Iguodala lay on the ground holding the back of his head, courtesy of a Gasol screen. He spent the ensuing timeout on one knee, gathering clarity. Iguodala left the game at that point, and sat for the rest of the half.

It wasn’t entirely clear that he would play after halftime.

“Got my head knocked off, it kind of woke me up a little bit,” is how Iguodala put it. “So I got a little edge after that. You gotta win the game. It’s a mindset. It’s really detrimental to the person, but I get it sometimes, it comes out when I’m playing.”

In other words, Iguodala had no thoughts of sitting out. And when he returned to the court, he unlocked the Warriors’ terrifying potential.

The Raptors didn’t buckle, though. This team has adopted the unflappable stoicism of its best player, Kawhi Leonard, and when the Raptors finally stopped the 18-0 bleeding with a Fred VanVleet 3-pointer, they simply went back to work.

With 4:46 left in the game, the Warriors still led by nine, at 106-97. Then things got weird for just about everybody concerned. This was the other key portion of the game.

For the next 4 minutes and 20 seconds, no one made a shot from the field. Between 4:26 and 1:08, no one so much as scored a point. It became a defensive slog between two exhausted foes whose jumpers couldn’t match their will. It was the basketball version of trench warfare. And it was the Raptors who broke the trance when Danny Green canned a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to cut Golden State’s lead to 106-104.

This was a treacherous moment. The Warriors had the ball. If they could score a couple points, they would make things exceedingly difficult for the Raptors. If they didn’t, Toronto would get one last crack at a game-tying or -winning basket.

So what happened? The Warriors put together one of the most ragged high-stakes possessions you’ll see from them. Curry very nearly lost the ball under duress from a double-team trap. His desperation pass to Shaun Livingston looked like it would be intercepted by Leonard, but Shaun Livingston made a fantastic play to get to the ball. And when all was said and done, there was Iguodala, alone along the arc, taking a cold-blooded 3-pointer with 5 seconds on the shot clock.


Keep in mind that Iguodala had gone 0 for 11 from 3-point range over his previous four games. He was in a two-week slump until he made that one in the third quarter Sunday. And then he nailed the biggest shot of the series so far.

“He’s hit a bunch of those for us in the playoffs,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. “Obviously, they disrespect him a lot at times, where they just leave him wide open — him and Draymond. And both of those guys have hit big threes for us in different parts of these playoffs. Obviously they’re trying to play the percentages and not have Steph or Klay (Thompson) shoot ’em. But if we can get other guys going like that, it’ll only help us in the long run.”

Coach Steve Kerr rarely hides his admiration for Iguodala. Sunday, he knew who had buttered the Warriors’ bread.

“He’s done everything in his career,” Kerr said. “He’s been in the Olympics, he’s won three rings, he’s been an All-Star. He knows how to play, one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. I think he sensed that we needed his production in that second half and he came alive.”

And in doing so, kept his team alive.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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