Jordan Poole leads Warriors past Nuggets

SAN FRANCISCO — Coach Steve Kerr is suddenly faced with a playoff conundrum: Restart Stephen Curry for Game 2 of the playoffs for Golden State and bench Jordan Poole or stick with what worked so well in the opener, and be extra careful with curry.

“Yes, we’ll cross the bridge when we get to it,” Kerr said, smiling.

Poole shined with 30 points in his playoff debut and stayed in the starting lineup when Curry returned from a foot injury, and the Warriors choked Nikola Jokic to beat the Denver Nuggets 123-107 in Game 1 of the first round series on Saturday night .

Right now, Curry sure was having a blast watching Poole and Splash Brother Klay Thompson do their thing from the opening top.

“I don’t have any expectations for what’s next because we’re always trying to figure that out because this is kind of a difficult situation to deal with in terms of the rapid rise I’ve had and this is a playoff similar intensity and atmosphere,” said Curry.

Finally healthy, Thompson returned to the playoff stage for the first time in nearly three years after two serious injuries, scoring 19 points with five 3-pointers.

Jordan Poole, who scored 30 points, shoots over Nikola Jokic in the Warriors' 123-107 win over the Nuggets.
Jordan Poole, who scored 30 points, shoots over Nikola Jokic in the Warriors’ 123-107 win over the Nuggets.
USA TODAY sports

“Jordan Poole, wow, what a playoff debut,” Thompson said. “…He’s just amazing. What a star in the making.”

The perimeter combo of Curry, Poole and Thompson proved too much for the Nuggets – with Poole acknowledging that “it’s pretty deadly.”

Jokic had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Denver and faced a smothering defense in the paint of Draymond Green and Kevon Looney while shooting 12 for 25.

Jokic credited both of them for making his shots hard.

“You have the tools. I think I missed a few easy ones but I think they defended me really well,” said Jokic. “So I have to get better. I just have to do the layups and easy shots.”

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is taking place Monday night at the Chase Center, which hosted the first playoff game since opening in fall 2019. Fans received black t-shirts that read “Gold Blooded.”

Stephen Curry, who scored 16 points from the bench, celebrates the Warriors' win.
Stephen Curry, who scored 16 points from the bench, celebrates the Warriors’ win.

Curry came off the bench and contributed 16 points in 21 minutes after missing exactly a month with a sprained ligament in his left foot. The two-time MVP tested it in a scrimmage on Thursday, coming off the bench and having a minute limit. He checked in at 5:58 am of the first quarter to a rousing ovation.

Curry missed his first five shots before a layup that gave a keeper a 1-14 lead against Aaron Gordon before halftime, then knocked down a 3 from the top of the arc as the Warriors took a 58-47 lead at the break .

Golden State won its last five games ending the regular season and kept rolling.

“Give them credit. This is a very talented team with tremendous playoff experience. I think the defining part was at the end of the second quarter,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “You don’t want to play from behind against this team in this building.”

Jokic averaged 28 points, 15.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the four encounters with the Warriors, three winning the Nuggets but only one in double digits. But Green had yet to play Denver this season, so his addition was huge.

“You feel it. He’s taken it to the next level,” Poole said of Green. “As our leader, we feed on his energy.”

Green hit a 3 from above against Jokic with 1:47 in the third, then the Nuggets star turned over moments later when Gary Payton II capitalized with a basket that put Golden State 89-68 ahead.

Green ended up with 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three blocked shots for a Warriors team that lost to Memphis in the play-in round last year and made it into the 2019 NBA Finals for the first time since losing sixth Playoffs is games to Toronto.

That was Thompson’s last playoff game when he suffered a cruciate ligament tear in his left knee which required surgery before tearing his right Achilles tendon in November 2020 and having it repaired – which took him over 2 1/2 years to complete came back in January.

Gordon and Thompson were hit at the 6:25 mark of the second with double technicians.

“We can’t beat ourselves and the Warriors in the same game,” Malone said, “and we did tonight.” Jordan Poole leads Warriors past Nuggets


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