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Stephen Curry Returns, and Golden State Beats the Nuggets

Klay Thompson was splashing 3-pointers. Draymond Inexperienced was making stops and deftly discovering open cutters. Stephen Curry drew a number of defenders any time he touched the ball.

The threesome who redefined basketball en path to profitable a number of championships with the Golden State Warriors reunited within the playoffs on Saturday for the primary time since 2019. And like in lots of video games of that period, the high-octane Warriors had been dominant, defeating the Denver Nuggets within the opener of their first-round playoff matchup, 123-107.

In a shock transfer, Curry started the sport on the bench. In his place, Coach Steve Kerr began the third-year guard Jordan Poole, who made a leap this 12 months. The transfer seemed to be geared toward maintaining Curry on a strict minutes restrict. This was his first sport since March 16, when he injured his left foot towards the Boston Celtics.

The swap paid off. Poole was distinctive in his first profession playoff sport, scoring 30 factors — a sport excessive — on 9 for 13 capturing, electrifying the Chase Middle crowd in San Francisco. He performed as if he had lengthy been a mainstay of postseason basketball. At one level, he did a dance after scoring a tough basket. It was that type of evening. On a staff of stars who had performed on among the most proficient groups in league historical past, it was a 22-year-old chosen with the twenty eighth choose of the 2019 draft who stole the present as Golden State tried to recapture the NBA throne.

“Jordan Poole, wow, what a playoff debut,” Thompson raved to reporters after the sport, including: “We needs to be very grateful for Jordan’s improvement and the kind of participant he is grow to be as a result of he is simply unbelievable. I imply what a star within the making.”

The final time Curry got here off the bench through the playoffs was Could 1, 2018, the second sport of the Western Convention semifinals towards the New Orleans Pelicans, when he was getting back from a knee damage. Saturday towards Denver was solely the third playoff sport of Curry’s profession through which he performed however did not begin.

He entered the competition about midway by way of the primary quarter to a loud ovation. Virtually instantly, Curry made his presence felt, discovering Thompson for an open 3-pointer from the nook and sneaking a move between two defenders to an open inexperienced for a dunk. In any other case, he struggled, capturing 5 for 13 from the sector for 16 factors. However his presence alone nonetheless drew outsize consideration from the Nuggets, and the Warriors outscored Denver by 17 factors with Curry on the ground.

“It was good to really feel the playoff vibe once more, and clearly it’s completely different coming off the bench and attempting to benefit from the minutes which might be applicable proper now,” Curry mentioned.

Poole’s robust play presents a dilemma — of the nice sort — for Kerr going ahead. With Curry again, can he ship Poole to the bench for the remainder of the playoffs?

“We’ll cross that bridge once we come to it,” Kerr mentioned.

Poole’s robust play will give Kerr extra choices for the remainder of the sequence. For one factor, he can deploy a three-guard lineup of Curry, Thompson and Poole — three playmakers and shooters. It is harking back to the closing small-ball lineups that the Warriors used to deploy at their finest throughout their championship runs of the final decade — besides with Poole enjoying the a part of Andre Iguodala, who now has a smaller function.

An added advantage of Poole’s emergence is that it permits Golden State to ease Curry’s ramp up coming off the foot damage. Kerr declined to say whether or not Curry would come off the bench once more for Sport 2 on Monday.

Thompson, in the meantime, regarded just like the participant he was earlier than he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee through the 2019 NBA finals. He moved swiftly to seek out open seems for himself, en route to 5 3-pointers and 19 factors total.

“Earlier than the tip I thought of all the times within the fitness center, the times in a health care provider’s workplace, on the surgical procedure desk after which simply to be flying up and down the court docket, knocking pictures down and enjoying stable protection, it was a surreal second for me,” Thompson mentioned after the sport.

Denver, then again, should return to the drafting board.

Golden State was in a position to flummox the Nuggets’ prime star, Nikola Jokic, who’s the favourite to win his second Most Helpful Participant Award. The Warriors continuously pressured Jokic into tough pictures and pissed off him with a gradual stream of double groups. Additionally they tried to tire him out defensively by establishing possessions with him as the first defender. On possession after possession, Jokic was despatched scurrying after the speedy Golden State ballhandlers.

“They had been simply higher than us in each facet of the sport,” Jokic mentioned.

However the Warriors even have Inexperienced, who received the Defensive Participant of the Yr Award in 2016-17. He was in a position to do one thing most defenders cannot: guard Jokic one on one for a number of possessions, liberating his Golden State teammates to remain hooked up to different Nuggets gamers Jokic may move to.

By the point the fourth quarter got here round, Jokic regarded exhausted. He completed with 25 factors, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. He went to the free throw line two instances, regardless of making an attempt 25 pictures. Denver seemed to be pissed off with the officiating.

“I feel there have been some instances the place, you understand, his jersey was getting pulled out quite a bit,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone mentioned. “So I do not know. We bought to see how they’re guarding him and the way we are able to make them pay for a way they’re guarding him.”

When Jokic was requested concerning the officiating after the sport by a reporter, he mentioned, “My good friend, I feel I’ll get fined if I reply.”

The playoff opener was a return to the postseason highlight for the core Golden State gamers who received championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Curry, Inexperienced, Thompson and Iguodala are the highest 4 leaders in franchise historical past for postseason video games performed. However this was the primary time, largely due to accidents, that the Warriors had made the playoffs since 2019, when the staff misplaced within the finals to the Toronto Raptors in six video games. The one time all 4 of them performed in the identical sport this 12 months was on Jan. 9, Thompson’s first sport again after lacking two seasons with leg accidents. Inexperienced solely began that sport briefly, to assist Thompson, earlier than sitting the remainder of the evening.

Each groups had important damage points through the season. Inexperienced missed greater than two months of the common season for Golden State with a again damage. For Denver, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray missed most or the entire season; they typically can take the stress off Jokic for playmaking.

This was Denver’s fourth straight 12 months making the playoffs; the staff has made it out of the primary spherical every of the previous three seasons.

There’s a supply of solace for Denver: In every of these sequence, the Nuggets misplaced the primary sport. The Nuggets will try to tie the seven-game sequence at one sport apiece on Monday. However they regarded overmatched on Saturday evening.

“We will not beat ourselves and the Warriors in the identical sport,” Malone mentioned. “We did that tonight.”

What do you think?

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