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Andre Iguodala injury could test Warriors’ wing depth vs. Rockets

Shortly after Warriors head coach Steve Kerr left his post-practice media scrum Monday afternoon, team spokesman Raymond Ridder made a surprise announcement: Andre Iguodala — the Warriors’ most essential role player — is doubtful for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday night with a left lateral leg contusion.

Iguodala sustained the injury late in Sunday night’s 126-85 rout of the Rockets, when the side of his left knee collided with James Harden’s right knee. Asked postgame about that fourth-quarter sequence, Kerr eased fans’ concerns, saying that Iguodala had told him that he would be “all right.”

It seemed such a minor injury that more than two dozen reporters didn’t bother to ask Kerr about Iguodala during a more-than 11-minute interview session Monday afternoon. Now, with the 2015 NBA Finals MVP doubtful for Game 4, Golden State must prepare to play a high-stakes matchup without its most valuable player not named Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green or Klay Thompson.

Though his numbers seldom wow, Iguodala is a steadying force on the team. The 14-year swingman is adept at helping set the tempo, limit turnovers, find open teammates and, perhaps most important, guard the opponent’s best scorer. No defender has given Harden — the odds-on MVP favorite — more trouble this series than Iguodala, who had 10 points, three steals, three assists, three rebounds and zero turnovers before leaving Game 3 with 5:11 left.

“When we focus in, are flying around and playing extremely hard, we’re a really good team,” Durant said. “Andre is a guy who does that night in and night out for us. We feed off his energy. We feed off his athletic plays.”

If Iguodala can’t go Tuesday, Kerr probably will start Kevon Looney at center and move Green to power forward and Durant to small forward. A versatile defender who can guard Harden and Chris Paul off ball-screens, Looney is an ideal matchup against the small-ball Rockets. The Warriors’ 88.4 defensive rating with Looney on the floor this series is much better than their postseason average.

The more pressing concern is what Looney’s expanded role would signal for a depleted wing rotation. With Patrick McCaw already ruled out for the rest of the conference finals with a spine injury, Kerr might have to play Shaun Livingston — who, at 32 and with a well-documented injury history, rarely cracks the 20-minute mark — more than he would like.

It could be a tall order to play Quinn Cook — an undersized defender who has only 58 NBA appearances under his belt — meaningful minutes on this stage, which leaves Nick Young as the best option to absorb the rest of Iguodala’s playing time. Young, who excelled against Houston in the regular season, has shot 42.9 percent (6-for-14) from three-point range in this series while playing better-than-expected defense.

An Iguodala absence would further expose an imbalanced roster. Golden State has essentially five centers — JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Damian Jones and Jordan Bell — Kerr would prefer not to use against the perimeter-oriented Rockets.

None of that should matter, however, if the Warriors play Game 4 with the energy and focus that defined their 41-point romp in Game 3. With Curry back to his brilliant ways, Golden State rode stingy defense and a big third quarter to the most lopsided postseason win in franchise history. It was more proof that, for all their regular-season wins and points, the Rockets have little answer when the defending NBA champions are at their best.

Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni — aware that his team plays best when uninhibited — told reporters Monday that the Warriors have “all the pressure” and, “We should come in with a little bit of swagger and giddy-up in our game.”

In one sense, Iguodala’s knee injury brings a silver lining: A team that often thrives when threatened knows it must be on point if Iguodala is anchored to the sideline.

“You have to play as if you want to win a championship,” Thompson said. “We have to exert ourselves.”

Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: cletourneau@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @Con_Chron

Series schedule

Warriors lead 2-1

Game 1: Warriors 119, Rockets 106

Game 2: Rockets 127, Warriors 105

Game 3: Warriors 126, Rockets 85

Tuesday: at Oracle Arena

Thursday: at Houston

Saturday: at Oracle Arena*

Monday: at Houston* (SF Gate)

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