Sunday, September 24

Jordan Poole shines as starter in place of Stephen Curry, giving Warriors new ‘death lineup’ option

Ahead of the Golden State Warriors’ Game 1 matchup with the Denver Nuggets, All-Star guard Stephen Curry was upgraded to “probable” as he was ready to return after missing the last month with a foot injury.

This set the table for the Warriors’ Big 3 of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to take the floor together in a playoff game for the first time in 1,038 days, according to StatMuse.

However, head coach Steve Kerr caught everyone by surprise when he announced that Curry would come off the bench in his return, presumably to tailor his minute restriction upon return from injury.

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This was only the second time in the last 10 seasons that Curry came off the bench. Ironically enough, the last time was in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, when Curry was also easing himself back into the lineup following an injury.

Any time the Warriors had an absence this season – particularly Curry and Thompson – it was third-year guard Jordan Poole who answered the call and Kerr rewarded the 22-year-old for his efforts.

Poole averaged 20.3 points, 4.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds on .438/.371/.931 shooting splits in 51 starts this season versus 13.7 points, 3.6 assists and 2.8 rebounds on .480/.341/.903 shooting splits in 25 games as to reserve. His scoring impact from him has been huge for the Warriors and they needed his boost with Curry under limited playing time.

Poole didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, setting the Chase Center on fire with his playoff debut. A perfect second-quarter explosion of 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field started to send the Warriors fans into a frenzy.

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He was going right at any defender the Nuggets threw at him, getting to the rim at will for layup after layup.

He started to get the flamethrower going in the second half, burying three 3s to set the Warriors’ franchise record for most 3s in a playoff debut with five.

That wouldn’t be the only history he made on the night.

Finishing with 30 points, I joined Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain (35 points) and Mitch Richmond (30) as the only players in franchise history to score 30 points in a playoff debut. He also joined Kyrie Irving as the only two players in NBA history to record 30 points and five 3s in a playoff debut.

“It was good to get the first one under the belt,” Poole said in his postgame interview. “I waited two years for this, asked a lot of questions. I have a lot of vets who are experienced and have been here before and they just told me to continue to play my game, be me and be ready for the moment.”

Filling Curry’s shoes in the starting lineup is no easy task, never mind under a spotlight like a playoff debut. When you consider Poole was playing in G League games last season, this becomes a tale from a storybook.

Poole’s performance leaves Coach Kerr with a big decision ahead of Game 2. Will Curry retake his spot in the starting lineup or slot alongside Poole in the starting five?

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The Warriors closed Game 1 with a new version of their renowned “death lineup” with Curry, Thompson, Green, Poole and Andrew Wiggins. Kerr could go to that lineup as a starting unit to keep Poole in the same role.

We’ll find out when the Warriors host the Nuggets for Game 2 on Monday, April 18 at 10 pm ET.

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