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Warriors vs. Grizzlies: Jordan Poole’s improved playmaking proves to be crucial after Draymond Green’s game 1 expulsion

When you score 27 points or more in four of the first six playoff games of your career, you will understandably attract some attention. For Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole, the attention came not only from fans who may not have previously been exposed to his offensive feats, but also from opponents’ defenses.

Poole was held to just 19 overall points in the last two games of the Warriors’ first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, while going 6-to-20 from the floor and 2-to-9 from 3-point range. Warriors coach Steve Kerr noticed how the Nuggets were much more physical with Poole in those games, and it was fair to consider whether a tough, strong roster like the Memphis Grizzlies would follow plan and put the pressure on Poole in Game 1 of their second game. -round series.

Yes, not so much.

In the Warriors’ thrilling 117-116 victory over Memphis on Sunday, Poole scored 31 points on 12-of-20 shots, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. He scored 17 points in the second half as he stepped up the offensive attack with Draymond Green in the locker room following a controversial expulsion for a flagrant 2 foul. Poole was absolutely electric in terms of scoring, as he has been for most of the last two months – by hitting deep, challenged 3s down and finishing with spectacular strikes around the edge.

Amid Poole’s breakout scoring performance this post-season, however, it may be easy to overlook another thriving aspect of his game – one that has steadily improved since Golden State’s development staff got their hands on him in 2019 – and one that was particularly relevant in Game 1 against Memphis: His playmaking.

Poole collected nine assists on Sunday, six of which came in the second half, after Green, their primary facilitator in the half, had been banished to the locker room. Poole collected eight or more assists in five games in the regular season, and he has already done so three times in his first six postseason appearances. In his first ever playoff run, he averages 1,535 points per game. possession including assists, according to Synergy Sports, which falls in the 92nd percentile.

It has come to the point that Poole is basically as credible as Stephen Curry as a playmaker, which led Green to call him the team’s “No. 1 option” while Curry came off an injury in their first round against the Nuggets.

“He has not been on this stage before. It’s not something you can learn in terms of being ready for a moment like this,” Curry said of Poole after the Game 1 victory. “Just the way he got up really helped us. He played a great floor game tonight.”

In the style of Green, his borderline clairvoyant teammate, Poole has begun to predict how plays will evolve before they actually take place, allowing him to be one step ahead of the defense. On this possession from the second quarter of Game 1 against Memphis, Poole knows that Andrew Wiggins will be open before he even receives the pass, and then fires a laser at him in one motion for a light bucket.

He has also become a maestro in pick-and-roll, averaging nearly two points per possession, including passes, in that action this postseason, according to Synergy. See how he patiently gives Warriors big man Kevon Looney room to roll, then threads the needle with a perfectly timed pocket pass to a layup.

“He learned very quickly,” Warriors guard Gary Payton II said of Poole after Game 1 against the Grizzlies. “The teams started doubling, put two on him, just normal basketball – just got off the ball and closet for others, and he’s done a damn job with it.”

And then there‚Äôs his evolving ability to make complicated readings, showcased in the play in the fourth quarter below. Poole feeds Otto Porter Jr. in the post, fake as if he wants to put up a screen for Klay Thompson, and then uses his speed to shake the Grizzlies’ big man Jaren Jackson Jr. as he gets to the corner. To understand Jackson’s length and shot blocking ability, Poole exploits his shooting ability by throwing up a pump fake, which causes Thompson’s husband, Kyle Anderson, to rotate over to him.

Now he plays five against four with Jackson out of the game and Poole has a decision to make. He could have hit Porter, who flared out to the 3-point line or jumped it over to one of the floor spacers on the other side of the field. Instead, after watching Morant – who is trapped in no-man’s land – take a half-slope towards Porter, Poole delivers a perfect jump pass to Thompson for baseline layup.

So much happens during this game and Poole makes it look instinctive from start to finish.

We have already seen how his scoring has been raised the Warriors’ ceiling, but Poole’s playmaking is crucial to their offensive success, especially when he shares the floor with Curry and Thompson. We’ll see if Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins takes a page out of Denver’s playbook and gets more physical with him in Game 2, but Poole has proven he can influence the game by facilitating, even though he’s having trouble finding space to to score.

“Being able to put the defense in a lot of rotations the way they try to protect us, it’s going to be really hard to protect all three of us in the same way when we’re out there together,” Poole said after the match. “It’s just being able to make the right game and make the other guys look good.”

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