Early Takeaways from Warriors' 2022 NBA Playoff Performance
They narrowly missed a chance to oust the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets—a team they outscored by 41 points over the first three contests—in Game 4, as they couldn't protect a late lead, saw Draymond Green foul out with just over two minutes remaining and ultimately suffered a 126-121 defeat.
The series shifts back to California for Wednesday's Game 5, which gives us enough time to asses Golden State's postseason performance so far.
Jordan Poole Keeps Leveling Up
Jordan Poole spent part of last season on a G League assignment. That's no news, of course, but it does frame how incredibly far the scoring guard has come in such a rapid time.
Somehow snubbed from being a Most Improved Player award finalist, the 22-year-old has effectively clapped back at those voters by carrying over his breakout effort into the postseason—and even upping his production in the process.
His averages through four playoff outings (the first four of his career, mind you) include 24.3 points, 5.8 assists and a scalding 59.6/51.9/84.0 shooting slash.
The Michigan product finally quieted down in Game 4, when he managed just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Even then, though, he tossed out a game-high nine assists and swiped three steals.
Poole spent much of this campaign positioning himself as one of the Association's rising stars. At this point, though, the "rising" qualifier may no longer be necessary.
The Splash Mob Looks Unstoppable
The best lineup in basketball didn't actually become a lineup until the postseason.
Due to injuries, absences and differing roles, coach Steve Kerr didn't roll out the fantastic five of Poole, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green until the playoffs. Now that it's been unleashed, though, this quintet could be Golden State's latest cheat code for a championship.
The Warriors have used this lineup for a total of 32 minutes and won that floor time by 26 points, per NBA.com. The advanced metrics are mind-boggling: 147.8 points per 100 possessions and a plus-34.4 points per 100 possessions advantage over the opposition.
Golden State has used previous death lineups—all featuring Curry, Thompson and Green—to spearhead title runs. That, of course, guarantees nothing at the moment, but there is zero reason to doubt this hyper-versatile group can do the same.
Openings Remain in Second Unit
Despite entering the playoffs with 82 games of regular-season data, coaches are wise to keep their playoff rotations fluid.
Kerr continues to experiment with which buttons are the right ones to press. Curry won't come off the bench for much longer, meaning it's up to Golden State's skipper to open with his small-ball group or plant a different sharpshooter on the second unit.
Big picture-wise, that's the most pressing decision, but there are other options to explore that could prove difference-makers on the right night.
Rookie Jonathan Kuminga finally logged non-garbage minutes in Game 4 and seemed capable of getting more. Nemanja Bjelica opened with two strong outings but has struggled his last two times out. Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala do a lot defensively, but Denver isn't worried about them on offense. Otto Porter Jr. suddenly can't find his shot. Damion Lee and Moses Moody haven't had the chance to find their own.
So, while the Warriors have identified their (and quite possibly the NBA's) best lineup, there are still questions to answer for covering all the floor time when those five aren't sharing the hardwood.