PORTLAND — Jordan Poole quizzed Stephen Curry early Monday morning about his pregame preparations ahead of the Warriors’ preseason opener that night. Just before tipoff, Curry let out a yell, threw his arms behind his back and sprinted through the tunnel to lead his teammates on to the court in a sudden burst of regular-season intensity.
It was the 22-year-old Poole who played with a fire under him in a 121-107 preseason win over the Trail Blazers. He scored a game-high 30 points and connected on seven 3-pointers, besting his regular-season personal record.
“I thought Jordan was fantastic offensively,” Kerr said postgame. “He played with supreme confidence and really gave a huge burst with his scoring. What we have to see next is his defensive effort.”
Poole garnered raves through offseason workouts that continued into the first week of training camp, culminating in him getting the starting nod alongside Curry in the backcourt.
Curry had a piece of advice for Poole before the game.
“The biggest thing is just figure out what your routine is,” Curry said at shootaround. “These first two preseason games you have to figure out what your routine is, how you get ready for a game from the time you get on the plane to the time the game starts. There’s a certain pecking order of things that you do to get ready, mentally and physically. So identify what that is (and) fine tune it.”
Whatever Poole did, he should probably repeat it.
He let it rip on 13 shots from beyond the arc and connected on seven of them. Many were from a meter or two beyond the line. That’s a brighter green light than Poole has ever had, and Kerr said it will continue into the season.
“I was just letting them ride,” Poole said.
But there’s no question Poole can score.
Kerr and Co. were more interested to see how he fared defending the Blazers’ dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. There were a couple plays that won’t make his highlight reel.
On one occasion, Poole fouled Anfernee Simons as the Portland guard attempted to dribble past him to the basket, but he immediately made up for it on the other end of the court with a 39-foot 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to end the first half.
McCollum also snuck past him on a couple of backdoor cuts to the basket.
“That’s the next step in his becoming a great player,” Kerr said of his defense afterward.
Don’t believe the Warriors when they say the saga surrounding Andrew Wiggins and the vaccine didn’t cause any kind of rift? Just take a look at the bench after Curry set up Wiggins perfectly for a poster-perfect dunk in the second quarter.
Curry drove into the paint, drew the attention of two defenders, then dropped off a gift for Wiggins, which he slammed home. It was like there was an “eject” button on the bench; players exploded from their seats and spilled onto the court in enthusiasm.
The former No. 1 overall pick played the role the Warriors are hoping to get from him this season as an effective second scoring option after Curry. He scored 13 points in 16 minutes and picked up Portland’s top wing scorer defensively.
“Wigs was great,” Kerr said. “Made a couple of great back cuts to the rim. His first half stretch was really solid.”
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 5, 2021
Testing the rules
Curry had an extended conversation with official Curtis Blair after he didn’t call a foul on an early jumpshot.
The contact was obvious. Curry pump-faked and got his man, McCollum, to leap into him as he released a circus-like, one-handed shot. No whistle.
The non-call was part of the NBA’s new emphasis this season to limit shooting fouls drawn by non-basketball moves.
“There could be some confusion to start, for sure,” Curry said before the game. “Like any rule change, it takes some time to get adjusted to. … Any emphasis they put from one year to the next, it takes some time to get adjusted to.”
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