The Golden State Warriors needed to do something. Trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers two games to one heading into a crucial Game 4 at the raucous Quicken Loans Arena, the favored Warriors were at risk of an upset because they had allowed Cleveland to become the aggressor and to dictate the pace at which the game would be played.
At a team dinner following Game 3, a 96-91 loss in which Golden State allowed Cleveland allowed LeBron James to register 40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and two blocks, that Warriors 28-year-old special assistant to the head coach Nick U'ren had an idea. He suggested the Warriors go small. "I went and brought it up at dinner to mixed reviews, which is fine and totally normal," U'Ren told Yahoo Sports.
After dinner, U'Ren went back to the hotel and digested tape of last year's NBA Finals, when the San Antonio Spurs turned what had been a deadlocked series against LeBron's Miami Heat into a rout by going small. U'Ren thought Golden State should sub center Andrew Bogut, a year-long starter, for small forward Andre Igoudala for Thursday's Game 4. It would be Igoudala's first start of the season.
Here's Yahoo's Marc Spears:
Kerr woke up to the suggestion and liked it because he believed it would help the Warriors increase the game's pace. It didn't hurt that Iguodala also had played well in the series' first three games, averaging 12.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and four assists off the bench while doing a respectable job of defending James.
Kerr debated the lineup change with the Warriors' coaching staff during a breakfast meeting before deciding to boldly make the move.
"I didn't see the text until this morning," Kerr said. "I told him I liked it and we debated as a staff what the repercussions would be and what the rotation would look like. It was a great idea."
The move resulted in Golden State playing by far its best game thus far of the Finals, leading after every quarter (the Warriors didn't hold a lead after a single one of the Finals' first 12 frames, winning game one in overtime) en route to a 103-82 blowout victory. Igoudala rewarded his coaching staff by posting team-highs of 22 points and eight rebounds while holding LeBron to a series-worst 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting, including a goose egg in the fourth quarter.
We wrote earlier this week on Kerr's relaxed, ego-free approach to coaching, and this is a prime example of it. While the flow chart does not translate perfectly from the NBA to college football, Kerr enabled the equivalent of a GA or quality control assistant suggest what could be a season-saving move.
And he made sure to give U'ren the credit.
"He's behind the bench, he's 28 years old, he's a kid," Kerr said. "We have a staff that is very cooperative. Whoever has the idea, it doesn't matter. And he brought me the idea."