The Golden State Warriors have a problem. There are too many players on their roster worthy of starting as part of the team’s regular lineup in the Western Conference Playoffs.
Draymond Green, the resident outspoken member of the Dubs’ roster, spoke to that issue on Monday night, April 18, following Golden State’s second straight blowout win over the Denver Nuggets inside Chase Center.
“Ultimately, we’ve got to have Steph Curry in the lineup. So, you know, that’s one thing. We’re not trying to keep Steph in the sixth man role. Forget that,” Green said. “Now, saying that, ultimately Jordan [Poole] probably gonna have to start too. And so that’s where we gotta figure a bunch of stuff out. Good problem to have. Great problem to have. But, it’s gonna have to get figured out at some point.”
“The thing about the playoffs is every series takes on a life of its own. Every series requires different matchups, requires different adjustments,” Green continued. “At some point, I’m sure they’re both going to be starting together. But I won’t be the one to cause myself that headache. [Head coach] Steve [Kerr] can figure that one out.”
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Curry Comes Off Bench in Playoffs Following Long Injury Absence
The Warriors routed the Nuggets by 16 points and 20 points, respectively, in Games 1 and 2 of their first-round series. Both of those wins have come with Curry starting on the sideline.
Golden State’s two-time MVP point guard sprained a ligament in his foot on March 16 against the Boston Celtics and missed the rest of the regular season. He returned for Game 1 of the Denver series under a minutes restriction, scoring 16 points in just 22 minutes on the floor. Curry played only 23 minutes in Game 2, but poured in a jaw-dropping 34 points.
Poole started in Curry’s place both games, dropping in 30 points on a blisteringly efficient 9-of-13 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from downtown, in Game 1. He followed that performance in Game 2 by scoring 29 points on 10-of-16 from the field, including 5-of-10 from the three-point line. Poole also dished out eight assists and grabbed five rebounds Monday night.
ESPN’s Malika Andrews asked Poole following his Game 1 performance Saturday whether or not he planned to give Kerr “a hard time about the starting lineup” because of how well he played. Poole was silent for a moment, then smiled wryly.
“No comment,” he said.
Warriors Have Found Next-Level Lineup That Includes Poole
Poole started more than half of the season at shooting guard while Klay Thompson continued to rehab and work his way back to the court following an absence that spanned two and a half years. Andrews’ question to Poole was a nod to some turmoil the Warriors navigated later in the season after Poole was relegated to the bench in favor of Thompson.
Things changed again when Curry went down, and Poole has remained in the starting lineup over two playoff games. Presumably, Curry would have replaced Poole when Kerr deemed the team ready to return to its regular rotations. With Poole’s play of late, however, it might be someone else who gets relegated to the bench.
That player isn’t going to be Curry or Green, and it’s highly unlikely it would be Thompson. That leaves just forward Andrew Wiggins and center Kevon Looney as starters Poole could replace. Logic would dictate that Wiggins would take a seat, but the Warriors have been known to play small ball before.
The so-called “death lineup” back in the early days of the team’s run to five consecutive NBA Finals, which included three championship rings, featured Green playing the role of center. He did so against Denver on multiple occasions over the previous two games, guarding reigning MVP Nikola Jokic highly effectively. As such, the new death lineup is a configuration fans could see the Dubs return to sooner rather than later.
The combination of Curry, Thompson, Poole, Wiggins and Green ripped off a 22-8 run over approximately five minutes of court time together during the second quarter against the Nuggets in Game 1. Kerr went back to the lineup again in Game 2. Thus far, the lineup has posted a +28 in on-court plus/minus throughout the series.
“Technically I guess we are undersized, but you have to bring a defensive force and effort and energy, and then you can again just turn it into an advantage on the other end of the floor,” Curry said of the Dubs’ new death lineup following Monday’s victory. “Seeing [Poole] be able to make plays in the pick-and-roll with me and [Thompson] spaced and [Green] setting [screens] and [Wiggins] slashing — it checks a lot of boxes on the list of what would you want for a potent offensive lineup.”