What we learned as Poole erupts, Steph returns in Game 1 win


SAN FRANCISCO -- Chase Center, welcome to the NBA playoffs. One game, one win. 

The Warriors went 1-3 against the Denver Nuggets in the regular season, but Golden State's real season began Saturday night with a dominant 123-107 win in Game 1 of the Warriors' first-round Western Conference series. 

Much of the Warriors' regular-season mistakes carried into the first quarter of the postseason with sloppy turnovers on offense and too many open 3-pointers on defense. Those issues slowly went away, and a big reason why was Steve Kerr's new Death Lineup of Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green. That's a whole lot of firepower. 

Unleashing that group gave the Warriors the lead and an offensive explosion to end the first half. The first half also concluded with a classic Curry 3-pointer, his first of the game after coming off the bench in his return from a sprained left foot, and his first after missing his first three attempts from deep to open his night. 

The Third-Quarter Warriors showed up for the playoffs on both ends, and the home squad held a 20-point lead going into the fourth quarter. They've made fans sweat all season in the final frame, but not this time. 

Klay's jitters could be felt early as this was his first playoff game since tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, but those quickly went away. He was the Warriors' main offensive threat at the start, and wound up scoring 19 points and splashed five 3-pointers. 

Draymond Green did it all with 12 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and bothered Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic all night as the MVP favorite was a minus-19 over 35 minutes. 

But the night belonged to a two-time MVP off the bench and a rising star who is ready for anything that's going to be thrown his way.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors taking an early series lead on the Nuggets.

Sixth Man Steph 

Curry came off the bench after being shelved for the last month to his left foot injury. This was just the third time he has served as a reserve in the playoffs, and he dropped 40 and 28 points the first two times. He didn't have one of those scoring performances against Denver, but the Warriors didn't need him to.

In Thursday's scrimmage, Curry played three six-minute segments. He played the final six minutes of the first quarter in Game 1 and didn't attempt one shot, swinging the ball around and getting his feel for the game. Curry played 12 minutes in the first half and was a plus-11 while scoring five points. He was active on offense and defense and once again showed how his impact goes well beyond how many points he scores. 

Curry played 22 minutes off the bench, scored 16 points, handed out four assists and was a plus-17.

He’s back.

Playoff Poole

As if we didn't already know the third-year pro has arrived. Whether it be as a starter or off the bench, Poole proved he can thrive in any role for the Warriors this season. In the 12 games that Curry missed to end the regular season, Poole averaged 25.8 points. 

In his playoff debut, he scored 30. That ties Mitch Richmond for the second-most points by a Warrior in a playoff debut. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record with 35.

Poole led the NBA in free throw percentage and his only miss in the first half came from the charity stripe. He scored 17 points and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field. The moment the bright lights came on, Poole was ready to shine.

And shine he did.

Scary Hours

Knowing that Curry would return in some capacity for Game 1, fans were clamoring to see Kerr unleash a five-man group of Curry, Poole, Thompson, Wiggins and Green. He waited until was there was 4:23 left in the second quarter and the Warriors were down 41-40. 

The Warriors went into halftime with a 58-47 lead. Good luck outscoring that group. 

It will be fascinating to see how Curry's minutes are used as the series goes on, and while the above five gave the Nuggets nightmares in Game 1, they gave Dub Nation a whole lot to smile about. The Warriors' first playoff game in San Francisco since 1964 is in the books, and it will be remembered as an emphatic win.

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