Warriors vs Nuggets: Jordan Poole becoming a star is what makes Golden State a true title contender

Warriors vs Nuggets: Jordan Poole becoming a star is what makes Golden State a true title contender

Deep down, almost everyone always believed that the Golden State Warriors were still a really good basketball team. The record under .500 in the final 10 weeks of the season was attributed to injuries to Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson still finding form.

Me? I was somewhere in the middle. Obviously, the Warriors were still a good team that could look great any night, but I also understood the new reality that Curry and Thompson were no longer human torches. They’ve had their nights, sure, but no one who’s watched the Warriors closely this season could say with any credibility that Curry, in particular, had been close to the shooter who won back-to-back MVPs.

Add to that Thompson being a natural hit or miss after two years away, and Golden State’s margin of error simply wasn’t the same. Now they needed to win games like everyone else, in a tougher way, more reliant on nighttime defense to carry the day, a plan that went to hell when Green went down and then took a while to rediscover his groove on his late-season comeback.

All that to say that I had really lost faith that the Warriors were still a top title contender. I believed they had it in them on any given night, but the inconsistency of filming Curry and Klay turned them, in my mind, into more of a joker. I chose them before the playoffs started to qualify for the finals, but to be honest it was an inherited choice, more from the heart than the head, a grown man who yearned to go one more round with the team he grew up watching in Northern California.

I’m happy to report that I believe in the Warriors again, objectively.

Not because it’s my favorite team, or because of Curry, Klay or Draymond.

I believe the Warriors can win the title thanks to Jordan Poole.

On Monday night, the Warriors edged past the Denver Nuggets, 126-106, to take what looks like an insurmountable 2-0 lead in their first-round series. Curry, who again didn’t start as he returned from a sprained ligament in his foot, looked like he was in the habit of watching just about every night, torching the Nuggets for 34 points . He sank 12 of 17 shots, including 5 of 1,010 on 3. He did it all in just 23 minutes of action, in which the Warriors edged the Nuggets by 32 points.

Thompson also had a good night, finishing with 21 points on 9 of 19 shooting, including 3 of 8 of 3. Draymond was fantastic, totally frustrating Nikola Jokic (who was eventually sent off for losing his temper with the officials) while putting on a superb all-round defensive performance.

When all of this happens on the same night, the Warriors are arguably the best team in the league. No one disputes that. But, whether it’s a lack of court time together or the start of a slow individual and collective regression, it’s not a reliable reality for these three guys to click the same night, every night, for a good time now.

That’s where Poole comes in. He’s the insurance. On nights like Monday, when the Big 3 roll, Poole goes for 29 of his own points, throwing 3-point darts from all over the field and dribble-smoking defenders, becomes an embarrassment of riches, and the Warriors could be unbeatable . But it’s the nights when Curry and Klay do nothing, when the defense faces, say, the Phoenix Suns offense and not the very limited Nuggets, when Poole will go from luxury to necessity.

Right now, Poole is borderline indefensible. He can create whatever plan he wants on his own, and he’s also totally in tune with Golden State’s read and react movement. In the first two playoff games of his career, he had 59 points and 11 assists while shooting 19 for 29 from the field, including going 11 for 17 of 3.

It once again gives the Warriors that margin of error they’ve always had in their five straight runs to the Finals. No, Poole isn’t going to keep shooting like that (at least I don’t think he will), but it’s a numbers game. There are now three potential flamethrowers on the field for the Warriors, and given the amount of attention Curry is getting, whether he shoots well or not, only one of them has to be really hot for the Warriors to be. in good shape offensively. If two of them are hot, they are going to be extremely difficult to beat. If all three work, turn off the lights.

This added threat is what makes the Warriors look like a top contender again. I’m sorry, but I don’t think Curry and Klay are self-sufficient unless everything is going perfectly. But you can’t count on everything going perfectly in the playoffs, can you? I’ve seen the Warriors’ vulnerability as Curry has struggled to shoot from many points throughout this season. He was on fire on Monday, but if this season’s ebbs and flows continue, he might as well go 5 for 16 on Thursday.

In the playoffs, you have to be able to win on bad shooting nights. Curry’s sheer gravity, even on bad nights, is part of that equation for the Warriors, as is Draymond and the defense. But Poole, who is becoming a star before our eyes, is the last role. Poole playing like that, with the obvious caveat that the Nuggets aren’t very good right now, once again takes the Warriors from a dangerous team to a real title favorite.

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