Warriors’ winning streak takes sting out of JP’s lapses originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay area
SAN FRANCISCO – As the Warriors have rediscovered the art of winning, growing pains are surfacing between moments of glory. Non-fatal failures along the path to triumph at the final buzzer.
Nobody on the roster epitomizes this more than Jordan Poole, the gifted but erratic fourth-year guard who has the good fortune and misfortune of being the temporary replacement for aninjured Stephen Curry.
Such challenging circumstances have placed Poole’s game directly under a microscope that reveals both his brilliance and his blemishes.
There was more blemish than brilliance on display Monday night in a 143-141 double-overtime win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Warriors survived, thanks to the extra 10 minutes afforded by double OT, but the video will be unkind to Poole.
“What I love about Jordan is that he’s got another level to reach,” coach Steve Kerr said. “These games are so great for him to feel what it’s like to be Steph. What it’s like to have the best defender on you, to have the pressure on you, to have to function down the stretch when the game is going to be more physical, and you have to play through all of that. These are all great learning experiences for him.”
The phrase “learning experiences” is, in most cases, and certainly this one, a euphemism for performances rife with miscues.
The turnovers, an ongoing problem for Poole – he’s averaging more turnovers than assists, 5.1 to 3.7, in the nine games since Curry left the lineup – were there once again, a total of six. Poole’s tendency to dribble precious seconds off the shot clock before flipping the “urgent” switch to engage the offense is frustrating for both teammates and coaches. The 1-on-2 and 1-on-3 drives into the paint that kept coming despite often being rejected (the Hawks blocked 10 shots, five on Poole) indicate the kind of irrational confidence that wrecks possessions.
Then there was Poole’s failure to properly acknowledge that his backcourt buddy, Klay Thompson, was giving the Warriors and the Chase Center crowd a fabulous shooting exhibition.
On a night when Thompson scored 54 points on 21-of-39 shooting (53.8 percent), including 10-of-21 (47.6) beyond the arc, Poole took 10 shots in the fourth quarter to Klay’s six. JP scored 28 points on 11-of-31 shooting (35.5), including 2-of-11 from distance (18.2). The volume of shots is particularly glaring since his teammate was in a zone.
There were at least three occasions when Atlanta’s defense fell asleep on Thompson – the one player the Hawks absolutely had to defend – to the point where he was waving frantically and fruitlessly to be noticed.
Here’s the rub: Poole is crafty passer who, when prudent, borders on excellence. He has had seven games this season with at least seven assists, but none in the nine games since Curry was forced to the sideline with a shoulder injury.
Yet here are the Warriors, winners of five straight games, with Poole averaging 30.2 points but shooting 43 percent from the field, including 26.5 percent from deep.
“We don’t win any of these five games without Jordan,” Kerr said. “We desperately need what he’s bringing to us.”
That’s the gift. That’s the fantastic 43-point game Poole produced in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers last Friday. That’s his ability to break down a defense like nobody else on the roster, aside from Curry. That’s the best of Poole, and it can be electric.
Getting that from him at this stage of his career means also tolerating his worst traits, including the possession-killing turnovers.
“I don’t think he’s having bad turnovers,” Draymond Green said of Poole. “Sometimes, he’s getting caught in a crowd. But you have Andrew Wiggins and Steph Curry out, so there’s going to be more of a crowd. He can do a better job of identifying the crowd.
“But at the same time, we need him to play the way the way he is playing.”
The internal belief is that there will come a time when Poole has a better grasp of how to get the best from his teammates. Until then, the Warriors are willing to endure those maddening moments – if the wins keep coming.