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With Andre Iguodala back in the starting lineup, Warriors are back in the NBA Finals

With Andre Iguodala back in the starting lineup, Warriors are back in the NBA Finals
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala is called a "Swiss Army knife" player by teammate Stephen Curry. (Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

Andre Iguodala is back in the Golden State Warriors' starting lineup, which could mean only one thing.

It's time for the NBA Finals!

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Iguodala was elevated to a starter on Monday night to mark Oklahoma City Thunder marksman Kevin Durant, and he'll probably be assigned similar duties against the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James in the coming days.

Iguodala's move into the starting lineup during last season's Finals was the master stroke by Golden State's coaching staff that resulted in three consecutive victories over Cleveland, and the Warriors' first title in 40 years. It also won Iguodala a most unlikely Finals most valuable player award after coming off the bench in the series' first three games.

Golden State starts its repeat bid against the Cavaliers on Thursday night in the series opener at Oracle Arena after having won three consecutive games against the Thunder when a loss would have led to lots of questions about the significance of those record 73 regular-season victories.

Iguodala certainly made things difficult for Durant during the Warriors' 96-88 victory in their series-clinching Game 7 victory in the Western Conference finals. His length forced Durant to become the NBA's tallest point guard, passing more than shooting until he had no choice but to try and rally the Thunder in the fourth quarter.

Durant went more than halfway through the first quarter without shooting. He finished the quarter with only three shots, and Iguodala's presence had more than a little to do with it.

"He's such a Swiss Army knife kind of guy, where he can do so much on the floor," Golden State guard Stephen Curry said of Iguodala after the game.

The Warriors did most of their dicing of the Thunder with three-pointers, something the Cavaliers must combat, or expect to meet a similar fate. Golden State's 17 three-pointers Monday were a record for a Game 7, and their 90 three-pointers over the seven games were the most by any team in a series of that length.

Curry and teammate Klay Thompson bolstered their unofficial status as the best-shooting backcourt in NBA history. Curry's 32 three-pointers were the most in a playoff series in league history, with Thompson's 30 three-pointers ranking second.

"We beat them everywhere else, they beat us from the three-point line, and that was the series," Durant said matter-of-factly.

Cleveland is widely being counted out before the opening tip of the Finals. The sports analytics gurus at numberFire are giving the Warriors a 72.08% chance to win the series, and the online betting site bovada.com assigned 10/21 odds of a Golden State repeat.

At least the Cavaliers will presumably have a full complement of stars this time after Kevin Love missed the entire Finals last season and Kyrie Irving sat out the final five games. They may wish they held onto forward Anderson Varejao, who will become the first player in NBA history to play for both of the league's finalists in the same season after being traded and waived in February, allowing the Warriors to sign him for the rest of the season.

Curry has erased any concerns about his recovering right knee with three consecutive games with at least 30 points, including a 36-point outburst in Game 7.

Draymond Green's availability, on the other hand, could be an ongoing worry. The volatile Warriors forward has collected five technical fouls in the playoffs, putting him two short of a one-game suspension. He has also amassed three flagrant-foul points, meaning if he picks up another flagrant-1 foul, he would be suspended for one game (a flagrant-2 foul would result in a two-game suspension).

There were more pleasant things to ponder late Monday night after the Warriors completed their comeback from a 3-1 deficit.

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"I haven't really thought much about Cleveland," Curry said. "Know what the challenge is going to be."

The Warriors also know exactly how to conquer it, starting with their starting lineup.

Twitter: @latbbolch

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