CLEVELAND — Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was irate with Jordan Poole after Poole got called for a delay of game — the team’s second — with seven seconds to go in the third quarter of their eventual 120-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
“Jordan!” Kerr yelled. “Come on, lock in … lock the f— in; we’re trying to win this game.”
Just 24 hours removed from a gut-wrenching loss in Boston, the Warriors needed this win. Cleveland was closing in, and Golden State, after once leading by as much as 20, needed to do what it didn’t do against the Celtics: close the door.
“It was a learning experience yesterday,” Poole said. “It was something that we were very aware of. It kind of was a very similar situation, being up with six minutes left and then it became a close game. We knew we needed to lock down, get some stops and make a good run . We needed to close it out and we did. Now we have to build on it.”
Yes, the Cavs were without Donovan Mitchell — out with a left groin strain — but Cleveland still has the second-best defensive rating in the league (109.7). Against a Warriors team that has been streaky on both ends of the ball — especially without Curry — it was a daunting task.
But the warriors put together one of their most impressive performances of the season.
Poole, who has replaced Kevin Looney in the regular starting lineup for the time being, opened the game with three consecutive 3-pointers. He ended the night with 32 points on 10-of-23 shooting, including 5-of-12 from 3.
He surpassed 500 career 3-pointers made, becoming the third-fastest player to hit that benchmark in Warriors history, trailing just Curry and Thompson. At 23 years old, he’s the youngest player to hit 500 3s. Poole is the third player in franchise history to record 20 career 30-point games at age 23 or younger, joining Rick Barry other Wilt Chamberlain.
“He’s continuing to grow and he’s continuing to get better,” Kerr said. “In the last two games, he was fantastic … To play that way tonight without Steph and Klay and Wiggs and Dray, to give us that scoring and that force, he made so many plays out there. He set the tone .. . He’s getting better and better. There is still so far to go, which is exciting.”
As a team, the Warriors hit 23 3-pointers against the Cavs, the most they’ve ever had in a game without Curry.
“You play 82 games, you’re only going to have a few of these (3-point shooting nights). We knew we were going to have to have one to win,” Kerr said.
“Everybody on our team is confident,” Poole said. “And shout-out to Coach Kerr for allowing us to play with that confidence. We know what we are capable of. We were spacing the floor and getting good looks. We got laser-focused.”
The biggest 3-pointer of the night came from two-way guard Ty Jerome. With 1:39 left in the fourth and the Warriors up just four, Jerome swung the ball to Looney, who immediately looked back at Jerome and returned the ball. Jerome took one dribble, shuffled to his right and launched the shot over Darius Garland with four seconds left on the shot clock.
In Jerome’s eyes, the most eye-catching stat from the night was how evenly distributed the Warriors’ scoring was. Without its core, Golden State had six players finish with double-digit scoring.
This was Green’s first game back since Dec. 20 after recovering from COVID-19 and a subsequent leg infection. It was also Kuminga’s first game back from a right sprained foot that kept him out since Jan. 2.
The Warriors’ win in Cleveland was the finale on their five-game road trip that saw them go 3-2. Considering Golden State is 6-18 on the road this season, the Warriors see this East Coast trip as a sign of growth.
Now, returning home with a much healthier roster than when they left, they hope this is when they can begin to build themselves up to have a strong stretch heading into the All-Star break, and a good second half to the season overall.
“We’ve got to win games on the road, and we did it this trip,” Poole said. “Now we get to go home … and try to play off the momentum we had tonight.”