The importance of Poole’s sneaky-good Game 1 win vs. Mavs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea:
SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors’ 25-point blowout win Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals was full of storylines. There was Steph Curry’s double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. There was Klay Thompson finding his shot in the second half after going scoreless the first two quarters. There was Andrew Wiggins showcasing his two-way skills with 19 points and a defensive masterclass on Mavs star Luka Dončić, and Draymond Green looked like an All-Pro safety on defense while pushing the pace on offense.
Warriors Twitter was not going to let you forget that Otto Porter Jr. was a plus-16 with 10 points and six rebounds, despite missing the last six quarters to right foot soreness the previous two games.
Lost in translation was Jordan Poole’s sneaky-good showing in 26 minutes off the bench.
Poole scored 19 points with three assists, two rebounds and one steal. He went 8-for-12 from the field and his only turnover was a questionable travel call that probably should have given him two more points. The slippery guard’s plus-15 was his best since Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, and was his third-best of the playoffs while having six games where he scored more points than Wednesday night.
What stood out was Poole’s decision-making. One early instance was a play that ended with a flexing Draymond earning the spotlight. But that wouldn’t have happened without a dime from Poole.
As the ball swung around, hitting the hands of Curry, Green, Wiggins and then Poole, he could have taken a 3-pointer once he had the rock with the Warriors up by two. He jab-stepped, creating space and an opening for a mid-range jumper but opted instead to hit Green right on target for a sequence that ended with a 3-point play that had Chase Center on its feet.
That was the kind of game that Poole played. He was at his own pace, and that resulted in the Mavs watching him fly past them most of the time.
He made only one of his four 3-point attempts, but one of those misses was a heave at the end of the first half. None were bad shots, nothing was forced. Poole and the rest of his Warriors teammates saw the stark differences between the long and athletic big men of the Grizzlies compared to those from Dallas. They feasted on them, scoring 44 points in the paint.
The Warriors shot 67.9 percent on 2-pointers in the win, and Poole was 7-for-8 on them. Those seven made shots and 14 points came from four layups and three jump shots. For someone who would have been smooth on a pair of skates back in the day at a roller disco, Poole was dancing past Dallas’ defense for step-back jumpers and fancy finishes at the rack.
“Just tried to be aggressive and put them in the rotations,” Poole said. “Good thing about the playoffs is it’s a different series now, and now we’ve got to find the patterns and the rhythm that they had defensively and we were able to execute tonight, but I’m sure they are going to switch things up in Game 2 and just have to find ways to adapt. “
On a night with a whole lot of positives, the only downside to Poole’s showing were his five fouls. He was even hit with a tech … for arguing a call that was eventually overturned.
The fact is, the Mavs are going to hunt and attack Poole when he’s on defense. His offense will always be ahead of his defense, but it was not for a lack of effort in Game 1. Steve Kerr sees Poole’s star potential on a daily basis and has pushed him on that side of the ball, behind closed doors and with public comments. He did so again after Golden State’s latest win.
“I thought he had a couple of tough calls but he can do better showing his hands,” Kerr said. “Sometimes you get your hands out like this, and a player, you know, bowls into you, you’re the one that gets the call because it looks like you’re reaching.
“If you can show your hands, then you’re more likely to not get called for a foul and I think that’s something he can probably do better next game.”
That comes with time and continuing to learn the nuances of the game. Luckily for Poole, he could not be in a better place, learning from Green and other defensive masterminds. Offensively he’s there with his skills, and his maturity there is shining brighter by the day.
In Game 1 of the first round, Poole exploded for 30 points and five 3-pointers. He again made five 3-pointers in the first game of the second round, this time scoring 31 points. It felt like we could be in for another one of those nights to start the conference finals after Poole made his first three shots, but he understood the assignment and read the Mavs like homework for a book club.
This game did not call for a 30-piece, it called 19 efficient points.
“You’ll have games where you score 30, score five, whatever it is,” Poole said. “We have so many talented players and we are really connected as a team, that as long as we go out there and we win the game, that’s all that matters.”
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Poole and the rest of the Warriors’ priorities could not be more clear. We’ve come accustomed to seeing him let it fly once he catches fire early. But to quietly produce the kind of performance he did in a team-wide thrashing of the Mavs?
Winning basketball. Poole and his teammates displayed it to open this series, now we wait and see if they can continue that on a game-by-game basis.
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