By Frank Pingue
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Getting his first start of the season on the game's biggest stage, Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala delivered a standout performance that may ultimately prove to be the turning point in the NBA Finals.
After losing consecutive games to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors were looking for a spark on Thursday that would send them home with the best-of-seven series tied at 2-2 rather than facing elimination.
That spark came in the form of a 31-year-old veteran, who not only delivered his best offensive performance of the season in the 103-82 win but also contained Cavs forward LeBron James, the best player of his generation.
"We needed to shift the tempo, and that's why we did it," Kerr said about the decision to start Iguodala in place of Andrew Bogut. "And who knew if it was going to work out or not? but it went our way tonight."
Iguodala had averaged 12.3 points off the bench over the first three games of the series but dug deep when it mattered most, given that none of the 32 teams who have fallen behind 3-1 in the NBA Finals have come back to win the series.
Known more for his defense, Iguodala coolly drained four three-pointers en route to a season-high 22 points in 39 minutes for the top-seeded Warriors.
James has been carrying Cleveland and averaged 41 points over the first three games of the series but had a tough time against Iguodala, managing just 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting.
Iguodala was open about his strategy for defending James.
"Make him work as hard as possible. Make him take tough shots," said Iguodala. "You look at his strengths, his weaknesses, which way he wants to go, which way he prefers to play, and you try to take him out of his comfort zone."
After having his minutes limited all season long, Iguodala looked like the most energetic player on the court all night. His performance drew high praise from team mate and reigning league Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry.
"He pretty much embodies what he just talked about, always being ready," said Curry. "I think he likes the challenge of his match-up, and especially in this series and throughout the course of the season.
"Or each game, no matter what he's asked to do, being ready to bring it. Confidence in knocking down shots when he's open, making plays."
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)