NBA Playoffs: Poole steals show in as Warriors take Game 1 against Nuggets
San Francisco, California - The Warriors didn't disappoint in their first playoff game at Chase Center as they fed off the energy from the raucous crowd to sail to a 123-107 victory over the Denver Nuggets to take Game 1 of their NBA Playoff first-round series.
Saturday was a reunion for the championship core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, who hadn't all been healthy for a single game this season. But the seasoned veterans welcomed a big part of the team's future to their party: Jordan Poole.
The third-year guard, who started in Curry's place Saturday, rose to the occasion on the big stage to the surprise of no one who's watched him over the last six weeks.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr initially split up Curry and Poole for the first quarter and most of the second. There was a noticeable increase in tempo when he decided to unleash Poole, Curry, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Green to close out the first half.
The Warriors exploded for an 18-4 run in the final four minutes of the half, which was capped off by a Curry 3-pointer.
Golden State led 58-47 heading into the locker room and never looked back.
Klay Thompson scored 19 points, connecting on five of his 10 3-point attempts, and Andrew Wiggins added 16 points.
Green, who had 12 points and nine assists, and Kevon Looney did a solid job defending Nikola Jokić, with Green at times frustrating the Nuggets' big man. Still, the Serbian giant led Denver's scoring with 25 points. Guard Will Barton added 24 points.
Curry, who was under a minutes restriction, finished with 16 points (3 for 6 from 3-point range and 5 for 13 overall) in 22 minutes.
The player spotlight
Jordan Poole's 30 points put him in the company of two Hall of Famers as he tied Mitch Richmond for the second-most points scored by a Warriors player in their first playoff game. Wilt Chamberlain is the only player who's scored more in his postseason debut. He had 35.
It's no wonder Poole's teammates were purring about him after the game. "He’s so good in the ball screen, that allows me to play off the ball and fly off screens," Klay Thompson told the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Dub Nation, we should be very grateful for Jordan’s development and the kind of player he’s become because he’s just incredible. What a star in the making."
Judging by Twitter's reaction to the 22-year-old's feats, that gratitude is very much out there.
The big picture
Selection is the big question looming over the next games in this series for the Warriors.
Kerr said he'll wait to see how Curry's body reacts to playing and will consult with the Warriors' training staff before determining the path forward for the rest of the series, which continues with Game 2 in San Francisco on Monday before heading to Denver later in the week. Either way, Poole's heroics have now added an extra layer of complication to his choice.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, were left to lick their wounds on a desperately disappointing night. "We can't beat ourselves and the Warriors in the same game," head coach Michael Malone said.
It can only get better for Denver – and it'll have to.
Cover photo: USA TODAY Sports