The Golden State Warriors started fast and finished strong in a 115-108 win over the Miami Heat on Monday. Despite an unusually poor shooting performance from Steph Curry on Monday, the Dubs still found a way to come away with a victory.
Andrew Wiggins jumpstarted Golden State’s attack, scoring 10 of the Warriors first 13 points en route to a 13-6 lead. The former first overall pick continued building off a fantastic December. Wiggins slowed down as the game went on offensively, but he still finished with 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field and 2-for-4 from three. Wiggins is shooting an NBA-best 50% from three over his last 19 games.
Even with Wiggins’ early-game scoring stretch, things looked concerning for the Warriors early, when Curry picked up two fouls less than three minutes into the first quarter and was forced to the bench. However, Jordan Poole knocked down a three almost immediately after replacing Steph and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Playing the second-half of a back-to-back, the Heat looked unusually out of sorts defensively. They were beat downcourt throughout the game in transition, surrendering several open layups and dunks early in the shot clock. There were other missed assignments that left Warriors open for three. Golden State took advantage early and built a 28-15 first-quarter lead.
However, Miami began closing the gap with two minutes left in the first quarter. The Warriors offense managed just 10 points in the first six minutes of the second quarter and even fell behind for a brief time while the Heat caught fire from deep.
The Warriors led 59-54 at the half and the game stayed competitive for the rest of regulation. However, with Miami already dealing with a back-to-back and missing two key players with injuries (Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson), they needed some unexpected performances to come away with a victory. When Heat star Jimmy Butler had to leave the game after suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter, things only got more difficult.
Going up against a shorthanded Miami squad, Warriors forward Draymond Green was playing at an elite level in his first game back since clearing the COVID-19 protocol. Green only scored 5 points on 5 field-goal attempts, but recorded 8 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal, and 4 blocks. Paired with Gary Payton II — who recorded 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and 1 block — the Warriors had two of the NBA’s best defenders on full display.
Otto Porter Jr. and Nemenja Bjelica provided some valuable contributions off the bench, adding 10 points a piece, but Poole easily overshadowed their contributions. Poole backed up his 14-point first half with a hyper-efficient 18-point second half on 7-for-8 shooting from the field. The third-year guard was scoring in nearly every way. He beat Heat defenders off the dribble and finished inside, knocked in his catch-and-shoot opportunities, and even racked up five assists against just one turnover. He was an elite playmaker and carried the Warriors offense.
I’ve been hinting at it for awhile, but I’m ready to comit to it: Jordan Poole will be an All-Star when he reaches his prime. It might not happen as soon as it could because of Klay and Steph, but I think he’ll end up posting at least one 25-5 season.— Marc Delucchi (@maddelucchi) January 4, 2022
With all of the attention on Klay Thompson’s approaching return, Poole reminded Dub Nation (and the Warriors coaching staff) that he’s capable of taking over a game as well. Head coach Steve Kerr will have an embarrassment of riches when Thompson returns to the rotation over the next week. Finding a way to continue maximizing Poole once Klay returns may be his greatest remaining challenge this season.
The Warriors 29-7 record remains the best in the NBA. Now, Golden State will get one day off before they travel to Dallas to play the Mavericks at 4:30 PM Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday.