You're bound to attract attention if you score at least 27 points in four of your six first playoff games. Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors' guard, was the target of attention from both fans who hadn't seen his offensive talents before and opposing defenses.
Poole was held to 19 points by the Warriors in their first round series against the Denver Nuggets. He also went 6-for-20 from 3-point range and 2-for-9 on the floor. Steve Kerr, Warriors coach, noted that the Nuggets were more physically aggressive with Poole during those games. It was fair to wonder if a strong, tough roster such as the Memphis Grizzlies would also follow their lead and clamp down on Poole in the first round of their second-round series.
Yes, but not so much.
Poole scored 31 points in the Warriors' thrilling win over Memphis, 117-116, on Sunday. He shot 12-of-20, including 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. After being controversially ejected from the locker room for a Flagrant 2 foul, Poole scored 17 points in halftime. Poole was as explosive in scoring as he has been over the past two months, making deep, contested 3s, and finishing with stunning forays around rim.
Despite Poole's stellar postseason scoring performances, it's easy to forget about another aspect of his game that has been steadily improving since Golden State's 2019 development staff took him under their wing. This was especially evident in Game 1 against Memphis: his playmaking.
Poole had nine assists Sunday. Six of those came in the second quarter after Green, their primary facilitator on the half-court, was expelled to the locker room. Poole had eight assists or more in five regular season games. He's already done this three times in his six first postseason appearances. According to Synergy Sport, Poole is averaging 1.535 points per game including assists in his first playoff run. This ranks him in the 92nd percentile.
It has reached the point where Poole is almost as trustworthy as Stephen Curry when it comes to playing the role of playmaker. Green calls him "No. 1" on the team. Curry was recovering from an injury sustained in the first round series against the Nuggets. Poole was their "No. 1 option".
"He has never been on this stage before. Curry spoke out about Poole's Game 1 victory, saying that it is not something you can teach. We were really grateful for his willingness to step up. He had an incredible floor game tonight."
Poole, like Green, his borderline-clairvoyant teammate has learned to predict how plays will play out before they actually happen, which allows him stay one step ahead. Poole anticipates Andrew Wiggins' open position on this possession in the second quarter against Memphis and fires a laser at him one-handed for an easy basket.
Synergy reports that he's become an expert in pick-and-roll. He averaged nearly two points per possession (passes included) this postseason. You can see how he patiently gives Warriors big man Kevon Leo the space to roll and then threads his needle with a perfect timed pocket pass for an easy layup.
After Game 1, Poole's first game against the Grizzlies, Warriors guard Gary Payton II stated that Poole "learnt very quickly." He's done a great job creating for others and teams started to double up on him.
The fourth-quarter play below shows his ability to read complex situations. Poole feeds Otto Porter Jr. from the post and pretends he's going set up a screen to Klay Thompson. Then he uses his quickness as a Grizzlies big man Jaren Johnson Jr. to shake him to the corner. Poole recognizes Jackson's shot-blocking abilities and length, so he throws up a fake pump, which causes Thompson's man Kyle Anderson to rotate over to him.
Poole now has to make a decision. Poole could have hit Porter at the 3-point line, or he could have jumped to one of the floor-spacers. Poole instead sees Morant, who is caught in no mans land, take a half-lean towards Porter and then bounces to Thompson for the baseline layup.
As we've seen, Poole's scoring has helped the Warriors raise their ceiling. However, Poole's playmaking skills are crucial to their offensive success, especially as he shares the floor alongside Curry and Thompson. We will see if Taylor Jenkins, the Grizzlies' head coach, takes a leaf from Denver's playbook to get more physical with Poole in Game 2. Poole has already proven that he can influence the game by facilitating, even if he is having trouble finding space for scoring.
Poole stated after the game that he was able to defend us in many rotations because of the way they try to protect us. It's going be difficult to keep all three of us safe together. It's about being able make the right play and getting these guys good looks.