SAN FRANCISCO – After a two-year hiatus, the Warriors returned to the playoffs in dominating fashion, taking a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of round 1 of the playoffs. Golden State’s 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets tonight was the first playoff game at Chase Center.
The Warriors recorded their first playoff game in San Francisco in 58 years. The last game was April 1, 1958, against the St. Louis Hawks.
Five players scored in double figures led by Jordan Poole’s 30 points. Poole was perfect in the first half, scoring 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting before finishing 9-of-13 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from three-point range in his first career playoff game start.
Poole joined Kyrie Irving (2015 with the Cleveland Cavaliers) as the only players to have 30-plus points and five made three-pointers in their playoff debut. On top of that, he joined Wilt Chamberlain and Mitch Richmond as the only players in team history with 30 points in a postseason debut.
“It was exciting,” Poole said. “Coaching staff put together a great game plan and we executed tonight.”
Klay Thompson poured in 19 points in his first postseason game in nearly three years. Like Poole, Thompson nailed five three-pointers on the night. And as a team, Golden State knocked down 16-of-35 from downtown.
“Jordan Poole, wow, what a playoff debut,” said Thompson. “He’s just incredible. What a star in the making.”
Andrew Wiggins had 16 points and eight rebounds. Draymond Green had 12 points, six rebounds, nine assists and three blocked shots. Stephen Curry scored 16 points off the bench in 22 minutes after missing the final 12 games of the regular season with strained ligament in his left foot.
Curry checked into the game at 5:58 mark in the first quarter to a loud ovation from the sold-out crowd. Fans received black T-shirts reading “Gold Blooded” prior to Game 1.
Golden State took a 57-48 lead into halftime after Curry drilled a deep three-pointer from the top of the arc. Curry missed his first five shot attempts before a layup that went in on a goaltending call against Aaron Gordon at the 1:14 mark in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, the Warriors outscored the Nuggets 32-23, keyed by a three-pointer from Green over the outstretched arm of Nikola Jokic with 1:47 left in the period. After a turnover by the MVP frontrunner, Gary Payton II converted a basket that gave Golden State a 89-68 lead.
The Warriors led by as much as 24 points. Denver’s biggest lead of the game was six points in the first half. Jokic had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, but the aggressive defense that both Green and Kevon Looney (6 points and 7 rebounds) slowed down Denver’s big man for most of the game.
“Give them credit. This is a very talented team with tremendous playoff experience,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “I think the key stretch was at the end of the second quarter. You don’t want to play from behind in this building against this team.”
In four contests against Golden State during the regular season, Jokic averaged 28 points, 15.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists, leading to a 3-1 edge. But Green didn’t play in any of the meetings. There is no question that Green is vital to the Warriors championship aspirations.
“You feel it [his defense]. He stepped it up a notch,” said Poole of Green. “Being our leader, we feed off his energy.”
Will Barton had 24 points, six rebounds and five assists on 10-of-18 shooting. Monte Morris and Bones Hyland each scored 10 points.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night at Chase Center.
The Warriors ended the regular season with five straight wins gearing up for the playoffs. Tonight’s game showed the team is at full strength and they are tough to beat. With the veteran nucleus of Curry, Green, Thompson and Andre Iguodala coupled with a vastly improved Poole in place, Golden State is confident in having success in the postseason.
“There’s no better feeling than having the guys behind you who have already been through the fight,” Poole explained.
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