Poole makes impressive showing in new role for Warriors


SAN FRANCISCO – Among the many stories behind this remarkable Warriors season is one almost taken for granted. Behind the stunning rise of Gary Payton II, the revival of Otto Porter Jr., the tantalizing future of Jonathan Kuminga and star-level play of Andrew Wiggins, is the invaluable work of Jordan Poole.

He is no Klay Thompson – no one is – but Poole is in his third month of admirably filling the offensive void created by Thompson’s absence. No way the Warriors would be 29-7 without Poole, a 6-foot-4 combo guard from Michigan.

Poole scored a game-high 32 points, including a spectacular dunk over 6-foot-11 Miami Heat center Omer Yurtseven with 1:43 remaining that punctuated a 115-108 victory before a sellout crowd (18,064) Monday night at Chase Center.

This was Poole’s second game back after missing two weeks in NBA-mandated health and safety protocols. In the second half, with the offense wheezing behind foul-plagued Stephen Curry, Poole came off the bench and brought it to life, scoring 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-3 from distance.

“It was huge. We needed all of his 32 points,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The early foul trouble with Steph, it changed our rotations. What a luxury it is to be able to come off the bench with a guy who started the first (28) games . . . Jordan has turned into a critical player for us and remains to be critical with all the guys coming back.”

One guy in particular. Thompson, the five-time All-Star shooting guard who was a pillar of teams that reached five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three championships.

After starting for two months, this was Poole’s second game as Golden State’s Sixth Man, and he crushed the assignment. On a night when Curry scored nine points on 3-of-17 shooting, getting 32 from Poole – as well as five assists – on 12-of-17 shooting was a godsend. 

“Jordan came into the game and got right to it,” Draymond Green said. “It was great. Obviously, moving forward, that’s going to be more of his role. And to see him embrace that and come – I was a little pissed off at him watching the Utah game; I didn’t think he was aggressive enough. Tonight, that was totally different.”

Indeed, this is the role Poole will transition to full-time upon Thompson’s return, which could be as early as Sunday. The Warriors are going to need Poole’s instant offense, much in the way their great teams of yore needed Andre Iguodala’s offensive finesse and defensive artistry.

“It’s only my second game in this role right now,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out with the new guys that we have to make it work.”

Kerr acknowledged that there will be lineups featuring Curry, Thompson and Poole, who has some point guard skills. It’s an instant headache for any defense.

“I’m sure that will happen,” Kerr said. “It will be a great shooting lineup, and when Klay comes back, we’ll have a lot of different combinations that we will look at. But (Poole) was great tonight.”

Averaging 17.8 points per game in his third season, Poole is Golden State’s third-leading scorer, with Curry No. 1 and Andrew Wiggins No. 2. For the record, Thompson averaged 18.4 points per game in his third season.

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Poole always knew he was keeping the starting spot warm for Thompson, which doesn’t make it any easier to relinquish it. 

He should know after this performance that his minutes, roughly 29 per game, won’t change much regardless of who enters the team’s playing rotation.

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