OAKLAND — Blake Griffin's defense, DeAndre Jordan's offense and the collective clamp the Clippers have put on Stephen Curry are among the surprise elements that have made them the superior team three games deep into their first-round series.
But the biggest surprise is that in the wingman matchup between J.J. Redick and Andre Iguodala, Redick not only has been the better player, it hasn't even been close.
By most metrics—size, athleticism, contract, general reputation—Iguodala should have the upper hand. By every other metric, he does not. Redick, aside from being the better scorer, playmaker and defender, was the firestarter for the Clippers' Game 2 blow-torching and has otherwise been a model of efficiency: eight assists to one turnover, perfect from the free-throw line (5-of-5) and averaging 15 points while making eight of 14 three-pointers.
Iguodala, meanwhile, is averaging half that many points, has as many turnovers as assists (9), has yet to hit a three and is shooting from the free-throw line what Redick is shooting from the field (55 percent).
What's most troubling is that Iguodala doesn't seem to know it, as the Warriors head into Sunday's Game 4 down 2-1.
"I feel pretty good about the matchup," Iguodala said after the Warriors' 98-96 Game 3 loss in which Redick outscored him 14-11, out-assisted him 5-3 and never turned the ball over while Iguodala gave it away four times. "It's not so much him. They do a good job of making all five guys a threat. ...You have to pick your poison at times. He's a concern, as all great shooters are, but I'm not going to get too bent out of shape about it."
Someone with the Warriors should. They went to great lengths last summer to land Iguodala, dealing four draft picks, including two firsts, to acquire him from the Denver Nuggets in a three-team deal and locking up the free-agent-to-be with a four-year, $48 million contract. For those scoring at home, that's $21 million more than Redick's four-year deal after the Clippers acquired him in a three-team deal last summer as well.
The disparity in their contracts, at the time, didn't seem all that shocking. Iguodala, listed at 6'6" and 207 pounds, was expected not only to be the Warriors' perimeter stopper but a crunch-time ball-handler and playmaker in ways that his predecessor in that role, Jarrett Jack, was not.
Redick, two inches shorter and nearly 20 pounds lighter, is regarded as a three-point specialist charged with spacing the floor for Griffin and point guard Chris Paul as long as the Clippers can hide him defensively.
Projections have not worked out as expected for either team. Most observers would have to agree with ESPN analyst and former coach Jeff Van Gundy that Klay Thompson has proved to be the Warriors' best perimeter defender. The Warriors seem to be among them, seeing as Thompson has handled the most challenging assignments for the better part of the season, including being the primary defender on Paul in this series. The hope that Iguodala could be a dribble-drive penetrator to collapse opposing defenses and open up shots for Curry and Thompson never materialized, either.
Redick, meanwhile, is regarded by several league scouts as the piece that allows the Clippers offense to function at a championship-contending level, thanks not only to his catch-and-shoot deadliness but his basketball IQ and serviceable defense. Coach Doc Rivers, who also has control over personnel decisions, targeted Redick as being able to provide what sharp-shooter Ray Allen provided him and the Celtics to win the 2007 NBA title. "He is what Ray was in Boston and still is, to some degree, in Miami," said one Clippers source. "Teams try to attack J.J. defensively but he's a competitor and a tough kid. And he's always in the right place. Always."
All this is being provided by someone who missed two months of the season with a bulging disc that prompted him to have three pain-killing epidurals over a four-week span and prompted his entire right leg "to shut down" at one point. He returned to play in five of the Clippers' six final regular-season games, but he still is rounding back into shape.
As many teams do, the Warriors have tested his defense, specifically posting Iguodala against him. As Iguodala's numbers reflect, it hasn't been successful.
"One, I take it as a challenge," Redick said. "Two, and no offense to Andre, but I consider Steph, Klay and David Lee as their three best offensive players. If they're going to waste offensive possessions on someone other than them, I'm OK with that. I'm also an analytical guy. Having Iguodala looking to score a contested two is better than having those other guys hitting threes."
Warriors coach Mark Jackson, of course, is looking for Iguodala to punish Redick so the Clippers are forced to double-team him in the post and thereby open up those other offensive weapons. That hasn't happened. Iguodala, in backing down Redick, has looked tentative and confused about what he wants to do once he gets into the paint.
And while the Warriors certainly face a significant challenge with Lee, 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal and journeyman Marreese Speights defending the rim-running threat posed by Griffin and Jordan—not to mention trying to slow down Redick coming off a screen—Redick has not been as effective in situations where he was defended by Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
Although Iguodala didn't cop to how badly he has been outplayed, he does expect to contribute more in Game 4.
"I really look forward to the next game," he said. "I've seen some things we can exploit."
So have the Clippers.
Ric Bucher covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.
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