Dubs’ core, newcomers show championship mettle in Game 3 road win originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea:
DENVER – Steve Kerr is well aware the Warriors’ championship core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala can laugh in the face of adversity. They’ve been there and done that countless times. The Warriors’ 118-113 Game 3 win Thursday night at Ball Arena against the Denver Nuggets in their first-round playoff series was not always aesthetically pleasing, but it might have been just as enjoyable for the coach and his players compared to the Warriors ‘two previous blowout victories.
That’s especially true when it comes to the newcomers, both young and older.
“The fun part is seeing Jordan go through it for the first time,” Kerr said. “Really seeing: [Andrew Wiggins] come up. I thought he had the shot of the game; that corner three was huge. Everybody stepped up.
“We’ve got an interesting mix with all these vets who have been there, and then some news guys who are getting a taste of what it’s like. They all came through tonight.”
Poole put on a show in front of his home fans at Chase Center in his first two playoff games. How would he respond to the hostile environment of the road, though? Well, pretty much the same.
Whenever the Nuggets went on a run, Poole put the fire out. He scored eight points in each of the first two quarters, putting him at 16 going into halftime. But then in the third quarter, he was forced to miss a crucial chunk of time after hurting his elbow and was forced to the bench with a heating pad wrapped around his left arm.
He returned with 8.3 seconds left in the third quarter and the Warriors down 89-85. The moment the ball was in his hands, Poole attacked the hole with no fear, took a hard fall and hit both of his free throws with only 2.8 seconds remaining in the frame to close the gap and give Golden State some needed momentum going into the fourth quarter.
In that final quarter, he drained both of his shot attempts, dished two assists, scored six points and was a plus-7. That gave him 27 points, tied with Curry for the team lead. The 22-year-old is a winner.
“He looks like a seasoned vet,” Thompson said. “The shots he’s been making and taking, he’s kind of been our catalyst on offense. JP, I’ve seen him put in so much work behind the scenes that he deserves this.
“I’m incredibly proud of him.”
To put into context just how great Poole has been to continue his unprecedented rise, per the Elias Sports Bureau he became the 16th player in NBA history to score at least 25 points in his first three playoff games. He joins Wilt Chamberlain as the only two Warriors to accomplish that feat.
Poole could not compare his playoff experience so far to anything in the past, but it’s clear he’s ready to rise to the challenge. That includes on the road, and he was not alone.
Wiggins had a quiet night for much of the win, but as Kerr said, he might have had the biggest shot of the night. His 3-pointer with three minutes left in the game gave the Warriors a 112-111 lead, one possession after missing the same exact shot. The next time the Warriors had the ball, Wiggins’ offensive rebound was just as important as those three points. It led to two more points from Poole to give the Warriors a three-point lead.
Gary Payton II made all four of his shot attempts, including all three of his 3-pointers, and his clutch defense seemed to always stop the Nuggets when needed most. He was a plus-11 in 14 huge minutes off the bench.
Otto Porter Jr. did not have the hot hand, though he found many other ways to contribute and was a game-high plus-16. And then there’s that championship core.
Steph again showcased that he might be the most unselfish superstar the game has seen. That killer instinct hasn’t gone anywhere, though, and it sure showed up in the fourth quarter – leading the Warriors with eight points. Thompson was right behind he and Poole with 26 points. Iguodala did a little bit of everything while silencing boos and blocking middle fingers from angry Nuggets fans stuck in the past. For good measure, his block on Will Barton’s 3-point attempt with 17.3 seconds left was the cherry on top to a championship cake.
Green had Kerr at a loss for words as he so often does, trying to find a comparison for the once-in-a-generation basketball genius. Draymond admitted that MVP Nikola Jokic got the best of him this time, but Green’s steal of Jokic near the end of the win sealed the deal and personified exactly who he is.
He was born for this, he was built for this.
“That’s what it’s all about, man,” Green said when asked about coming out with a road win again in the playoffs. “You go into an opposing country building and you can shut that crowd up, it does not get much better than that. There is no better feeling in sports than going into a hostile environment, their crowd’s into it, yelling, screaming and ultimately you come out with a win.
“There’s no better feeling. It’s hard to duplicate that feeling, that rush. For me, I enjoy these type of environments. I enjoy the boos, I enjoy everything that comes with it. I always say, ‘The real ones show up on the road, they make plays on the road. ‘ Then some people just show up at home. “
The Warriors now have won at least one road game in each of their last 24 playoff series, an NBA record streak that started back in 2013 – when Curry, Thompson and Green first tasted the playoffs against Iguodala and the Nuggets.
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On the outside, Draymond and Klay could not be more different. You can see Green’s passion – you can feel it, you can hear it. Klay’s a tad bit more chill in that case.
His fire burns just as deep on the inside.
There’s a long list of countless parts to basketball that he missed on a daily basis while rehabbing two different leg injuries that had him away from the game for more than two years. Quieting a road crowd in the playoffs and coming out with a win like Thursday night is right at the top.
“So much,” he said when asked how much he missed playoff games on the road. “It’s what you dream of, it’s what you prepare for and I do not take granted nights like these. That was a ton of fun and just a gutsy win by our squad.
“Everything I worked for the past two years has come to fruition. I’m just incredibly grateful to be here and having fun.”
The Warriors gave their home fans plenty to cheer about in Game 1 and Game 2. Taking down Denver on the road with a combination of the past and the present was the perfect indication to truly show the Dubs are back.
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