Warriors-Nuggets Game 3 Preview: A New Death
How Poole, Curry, and the Warriors are redefining themselves, and kicking butts along the way
The Golden State Warriors have looked unstoppable against the Denver Nuggets, but now the series swings into the Mile High City and one of the biggest homefield advantages in all of sports. The Nuggets imploded a bit back in San Francisco, and unless they can pull it together in a meaningful way tonight, this is going to be a short series.
At time of writing, the only big news is that Andre Iguodala — who missed game two with some old man neck issue — has been upgraded to probable and is “feeling good.” Stephen Curry will be available, but is expected to remain on a minutes limitation and perhaps even come off the bench again.
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets
WHEN: Thursday, April 21, 2022 // 7:00pm(ish) PDT
Warriors lead series, 2-0
Warriors 6th men, and a lineup that everyone wants to name
Super Splash Bros. The New Death lineup. Whatever you want to call it, the Warriors have unearthed a new combination that has the Nuggets pointing fingers and yelling at each other. Hell, even the TNT crew got into a heated debate when talking about how to stop this iteration of the Warriors. No name is sticking right now, and answers have been just as elusive on the court for their opponents.
It all starts with Curry and his newfound running mate, Jordan Poole. In the playoffs, they’ve shared the court for all of 19 minutes, according to the NBA; and in those minutes they’ve outscored opponents by about 62 points per 100 possessions. It’s a vast improvement over the regular season results — where the duo had a net rating of “just” 15.2 points per 100 possessions over the course of a much larger sample of 964 minutes.
Poole’s explosion in the playoffs is a huge part of the success that Golden State has found against the Denver Nuggets. Much of it is Poole’s development. A noted gym rat, Poole has drawn praise over the past few seasons as he put in extra attention working on his game.
Denver is far from blameless here. Seemingly perfectly suited to be exploited by the Warriors frenetic, guard-driven offense, the Nuggets have been cutting themselves on both ends of the sword. It’s a trend that has been increasing since March, where the Nuggets allowed 118.6 points per game in the final 21 games of regular-season action, including giving up an average of 121.9 points per game on average in their 14 home games during that span.
Poole has exploded onto the scene in his first two playoff games.
With poor point of attack defense at the point guard position, and one of the league’s most plodding bigs playing heavy minutes, Denver has been getting eviscerated when the Warriors bring in the New Death lineup.
It’s certainly fair to wonder how much of this lift would happen without Curry…
Since I’m a visual learner, here’s a look at the Warriors’ scoring per 36 minutes in the playoffs. One of the reasons I like parsing the data into a rate is to show how much the minutes played can skew how a player looks. Curry has gone nuclear in this series, even though he’s playing limited minutes:
For now, Curry is probably going to keep coming off of the bench, A trick to ensure that his limited minutes align more closely with the closing of quarters than the opening lineup. It’s a humble choice that not everyone would be able to make. I think it’s just something inherently in Curry, but there’s a dual purpose here in sending a message to Jordan Poole — or Kevon Looney / whoever it may be that gets bumped out of the opening lineup.
For now, it’s worth noting that Curry and Poole are leading the team’s offensive attack in these playoffs, and doing so in a more assertive way than they did during the regular season.
Check out the difference in scoring rate between these playoffs and the regular season. Again, lots of noise and bumps during the regular season grind, and a small, two-game sample size of the playoffs; but it’s still interesting to note which Warriors are scoring at a greater (or lesser frequency):
For now, the Warriors are up two, and hoping to keep up the pressure on Denver in order to sweep them out of the way.
Watch for this closing unit to be strategically deployed not just against the Nuggets, but as a critical component — maybe the critical one — in the Warriors chase for another title. Much like the old Small Ball Death Squad, this lineup isn’t going to be trotted out at the start of every game; and that’s just fine with Curry and Poole.
Steve Kerr didn’t go to the Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Wiggins, Green grouping until 6:02 remained in the second quarter. The Warriors hadn’t played well to that point. They were down eight. Within two minutes, using a 9-0 run, they were up one. Before halftime, they had pushed the lead to six.
That’s a plus-14 burst in five minutes.
This isn’t just a team with a puncher’s chance. The Warriors, with this New Death lineup are looking more like prime Mike Tyson.
Get your brooms ready!