Warriors vs. Grizzlies: Jordan Poole’s improved play proves vital after Draymond Green’s Game 1 ejection

When he scores 27 points or more in four of the first six playoff games of his career, it’s understandable that he commands attention. For Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole, that attention came not only from fans who may not have previously been exposed to his offensive exploits, but also from opposing defenses.

Poole was limited to just 19 total points in the final two games of the Warriors’ first-round series against the Denver Nuggets while shooting 6-for-20 from the floor and 2-for-9 from 3-point range. Warriors coach Steve Kerr noted how the Nuggets were much more physical with Poole in those games, and it was fair to consider whether a tough, strong roster like the Memphis Grizzlies would follow suit and put the braces on Poole in Game 1. of his second. – round series.

Yes, not so much.

In the Warriors’ thrilling 117-116 victory over Memphis on Sunday, Poole scored 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. He scored 17 points in the second half, when he fueled the offensive attack with Draymond Green in the locker room after being controversially ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul. Poole was absolutely electric in terms of scoring, as he has been for most of the last two months, knocking down deep, contested 3-pointers and finishing with spectacular forays around the rim.

Amid Poole’s standout scoring performances this postseason, though, it could be easy to overlook another burgeoning aspect of his game, one that has steadily improved since Golden State’s development staff put him in his hands in 2019. , and that was particularly relevant in Game 1 against Memphis: His play.

Poole collected nine assists on Sunday, six of which came in the second half after Green, his main half-court facilitator, was banished to the locker room. Poole collected eight or more assists in five games during the regular season, and has already done so three times in his first six postseason appearances. In his first playoff streak, he is averaging 1,535 points per possession, including assists, according to Synergy Sports, which falls in the 92nd percentile.

It’s gotten to the point where Poole is basically as reliable as Stephen Curry as a playmaker, leading Green to call him the “number 1 choice” of the team while Curry was coming off an injury in his first-round series against the Nuggets.

“He hasn’t been on this stage before. It’s not something you can teach in terms of being ready for a moment like this,” Curry said of Poole after the Game 1 victory. “Just the way he stepped up to the front really helped us. He played an amazing ground game tonight.”

Along the lines of his near-sighted teammate Green, Poole has begun to anticipate how plays will play out before they happen, allowing him to stay one step ahead of the defense. In this second-quarter possession of Game 1 against Memphis, Poole knows Andrew Wiggins will be wide open even before he gets the pass, then shoots a laser at him all in one motion for an easy bucket.

He’s also become a master of the pick-and-roll, averaging nearly two points per possession, including passing, in that action this postseason, according to Synergy. Watch as he patiently allows Warriors big man Kevon Looney room to roll, then threads the needle with a perfectly timed pocket pass for a layup.

“He was a quick learner,” Warriors guard Gary Payton II said of Poole after Game 1 against the Grizzlies. “Teams started doubling down, putting two on him, just normal basketball – just putting the ball down and creating for the others, and he’s been doing a great job at that.”

And then there’s his developing ability to make complicated reads, shown in the fourth-quarter play below. Poole feeds Otto Porter Jr. on the post, pretends he’s going to set up a screen for Klay Thompson, then uses his quickness to shake off Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. as he reaches the corner. Understanding Jackson’s length and shot-blocking ability, Poole takes advantage of his shooting ability by throwing a fake bomb, causing Thompson’s man, Kyle Anderson, to turn on him.

Now playing five on four with Jackson sidelined, Poole has a decision to make. He could have hit Porter at the 3-point line or jumped into one of the spacers on the other side of the court. Instead, after seeing Morant, who is stuck in no man’s land, half lean into Porter, Poole throws a perfect dribble pass to Thompson for the baseline layup.

There is so much going on during this play, and Poole makes it seem instinctive from start to finish.

We have already seen how his annotation has raised the roof of the Warriors, but Poole’s plays are absolutely crucial to his offensive success, especially when he shares the court with Curry and Thompson. We’ll see if Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins takes a page out of Denver’s playbook and gets more physical with him in Game 2, but Poole has shown he can affect the game by facilitating, even if he has trouble find space to write down.

“Being able to put the defense through a lot of rotations, the way they try to protect us, it’s going to be very difficult to protect all three of us the same way when we’re together,” Poole said. After the match. “It’s just being able to make the right play and make these other guys look good.”

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