If you want to know the differences between the 2020-21 Golden State Warriors (who barely made the play-in tournament) and the 2021-22 team (the best in the NBA), you’ll need to make a long list.
But the top of the list very well might be two simple words, and 11 letters: Jordan Poole.
Poole’s emergence as a consistent secondary or tertiary scorer, as well as playmaker (and improved defender), has been one of the biggest storylines of the season. And against the Miami Heat on Monday, it was, as it has been a few times this year, not just a storyline: it was the reason for victory.
Coming off the bench in just his second game since returning from the health and safety protocols, Poole was electric early and often. He entered the game quickly after Steph Curry picked up his second foul, and immediately got to work, knocking in 14 first-quarter points. That, combined with a dozen from Andrew Wiggins, put the Dubs up 33-26 after the initial frame.
Things went back and forth in the second quarter, with Miami’s stellar defense and varied offense making things tense, and Golden State taking just a five-point lead into the locker room. It was more of the same in the third, with the Heat pulling ahead for stretches, then relinquishing the lead.
But Golden State took over in the fourth, once again led by Poole, who finished with 32 points on a hyper-efficient 12-for-17 shooting. Golden State’s lead never got comfortable, but Miami was never able to close the gap and really threaten to take it back.
Poole’s hot shooting was a reminder as to how good the Warriors can be with their secondary stars showing off. Curry struggled mightily all night, finishing with just 9 points on 3-for-17 shooting (though he did have 10 assists). Last year, Curry scoring in single digits while shooting 17.6% would be a death sentence, especially against a top team like Miami. This year? Not so much.
Others stepped up as well, with Wiggins shooting efficiently, tallying 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Draymond Green was excellent in his return to the lineup, filling up the stat sheet with 5 points, 8 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal, and 4 blocks. Gary Payton II played absolutely shut-down defense in the final frame which, combined with a third-quarter injury to Jimmy Butler, helped quiet Miami’s attack.
When the buzzer rang, it was an impressive 115-108 victory, as the Dubs moved to 29-7, a full game ahead of the Phoenix Suns in the standings.
Check out the post-game show on Twitch with Marc Delucchi: