The Golden State Warriors finally made things dramatic. After two straight blowout victories to open up their first round series against the Denver Nuggets, the Dubs found themselves locked in an intense, back-and-forth battle on the road.
And what emerged from the other end was perhaps the most satisfying game of the season: a tough 118-113 win that has the Warriors knocking on the door of a sweep. Even against a compromised Nuggets team, winning on the road, in the playoffs, against a desperate team is an impressive accomplishment, and there’s a lot of optimism around the Dubs right now, as there should be.
So let’s grade the players, weighting for our expectations of each.
Note: League-average true-shooting percentage (TS) this season was 56.6%.
35 minutes, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 4 turnovers, 5 fouls, 2-for-6 shooting, 1-for-3 threes, 1-for-4 free throws, 38.7% TS, +4
Do everything Draymond. That was the theme. He was critical of his defense, but I don’t think anyone else in the world will be, especially after he made the play of the game, on that end of the court.
Best defender in the world. pic.twitter.com/rtjeQ2ocQ2— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 22, 2022
Steve Kerr likened him to Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace, before pointing out that Dray also had 10 assists.
And sure, he didn’t shoot well, but it doesn’t matter because he made a three.
The Warriors are 16-1 this season when Draymond makes a three— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) April 22, 2022
He’s such a special player. I’m perpetually at a loss for words when it comes to describing the things he’s able to do on the court. We’ve never seen anyone like him.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in assists.
29 minutes, 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 3-for-6 shooting, 2-for-4 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 65.4% TS, -4
I can’t really criticize Wiggins’ performance, because after the game Green started talking about how the people who do criticize Wiggins don’t know how to watch basketball.
Still, a little criticism is in order. Wiggins was too content just standing around doing nothing on offense, when there were plenty of lanes to bolt down. He didn’t do much on offense, really, as a playmaker, as a screener, or as an off-ball mover. And his defense was so-so.
But he made huge play after huge play down the stretch, with an offensive rebound that felt like it turned the game, and a massive three in the finishing moments. And he led the team in rebounding, yet again.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.
9 minutes, 0 points, 1 rebound, 4 fouls, -2
Looney got absolutely eaten alive by Nikola Jokić in the few minutes that he was on the court. There’s no shame in that. Most people got eaten alive by Jokić.
But there’s no hiding it, either.
Assuming the Warriors advance, Looney will play a bigger role in the next series, presumably.
37 minutes, 26 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 1 turnover, 10-for-18 shooting, 6-for-13 threes, 72.2% TS, +3
I could watch Klay shoot all day. All freaking day.
He seems so happy to not just be back on the court, but sharing these huge moments with his teammates, and once again playing like KLAY.
He can be the first option, the second option, or the third option. It doesn’t matter. What matters is he’s giving his heart and soul every game, D’ing up the opponent, and making the big shots night in and night out.
34 minutes, 27 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 9-for-13 shooting, 3-for-5 threes, 6-for-9 free throws, 79.6% TS, +4
I’m officially out of words for this dude.
22-year old Jordan Poole's first three playoff games: 86 points, 14 assists, 66.7% FG, 59.1% 3FG, 83.9% true shooting— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) April 22, 2022
The Warriors offense didn’t miss a beat out of the gates, despite Steph Curry starting on the bench. Poole was there with the big shots to get them started. And he was there with the big shots to finish things off. And he was there with the big shots all along the way.
He was full of finesse and wizardry, with a good amount of showmanship and a strong sense of the moment.
JORDAN POOLE— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 22, 2022
ARE YOU KIDDING pic.twitter.com/CP7PTl8anI
It’s abundantly clear that the Warriors stars see him as one of them. They like him as such. They respect him as such. And perhaps most importantly, they trust him as such.
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in points.
12 minutes, 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 block, 2 fouls, 0-for-2 shooting, 2-for-2 free throws, 34.7% TS, +1
This was definitely Bjelica’s least impactful game of the series, and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back in Game 4. The Warriors gave him a good amount of run against Jokić, rather than just waiting to match him up with DeMarcus Cousins.
He didn’t do anything bad, just didn’t make his mark at all.
16 minutes, 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 1-for-1 shooting, 2-for-3 free throws, 86.2% TS, -8
Just when you think that Iguodala is having a little bit of a lackluster game, he bursts through your TV and rams the ball violently through the rim in vintage Iguodala style.
He looked like he had a little rust to shake off, but hopefully this shook it off for him. The Warriors are gonna need him.
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.
Otto Porter Jr.
22 minutes, 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 3-for-7 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 42.9% TS, +16
Porter continues to struggle with his shot in this series, but he did just about everything else in this game. His length and switchability are such an asset, and it seems abundantly clear that he’s going to play a pivotal role all postseason long.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in plus/minus.
31 minutes, 27 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 fouls, 9-for-17 shooting, 3-for-9 threes, 6-for-8 free throws, 65.8% TS, +3
Curry looks about as good as he’s looked all season, so I’d say we can officially close the door on having any concerns about his foot. He’s in total control when he’s on the court, manipulating defenses, playing with defenders, pulling up from anywhere, and getting to the rim for crafty finishes.
Most importantly, Curry eclipsed 30 minutes in this game. He’s probably ready to move back into the starting lineup.
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in points.
Gary Payton II
14 minutes, 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 4-for-4 shooting, 3-for-3 threes, 137.5% TS, +10
If you want a masterclass in how to positively impact a game in just 14 minutes of action, go back and watch every second that GPII was on the court.
Thursday’s DNPs: Jonathan Kuminga, Damion Lee, Moses Moody, Juan Toscano-Anderson
Thursday’s inactives: James Wiseman