CLEVELAND — Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was furious with Jordan Poole after Poole was called out over a delay of the game — the team’s second — with seven seconds left in the third quarter of their eventual 120-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
“Jordan!” Kerr screamed. “Come on, join… enclose the f—; we’re trying to win this game.”
Just 24 hours from a heartbreaking loss in Boston, the Warriors needed that win. Cleveland was closing in, and Golden State, after leading once by 20 points, had to do what it didn’t do against the Celtics: close the door.
“It was a learning experience yesterday,” said Poole. “That was something we were very aware of. It was a very similar situation when we were ahead with six minutes to go and then it became a close game. We knew we had to finish, make a few stops and have a good run. We had to close it and we did. Now we have to build on that.”
The Warriors were without four of their five starters, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins sidelined with various injury treatments.
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 was 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 Kevon Looney in the regular starting XI for the time being, opened the game with three consecutive 3 points. He finished the night with 32 points on 10-of-23 shooting, including 5-of-12-of-3.
He surpassed 500 career 3-pointers and became the third fastest player to reach that benchmark in Warriors history, behind Curry and Thompson. At 23, he’s the youngest player to crack 500 3s. Poole is the third player in franchise history, alongside Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain, to have scored 20 30-point games in his career at age 23 or younger.
“He keeps growing and getting better,” Kerr said. “He’s been fantastic in the last two games… To play like that tonight without Steph and Klay and Wiggs and Dray to give us that goal and that power, he’s made so many games out there. He set the tone… He’s getting better and better. There’s still so much to do, which is exciting.”
As a team, the Warriors hit 23 3-pointers against the Cavs, the most they’ve ever scored in a non-Curry game.
“You play 82 games, you’ll only have a few of those (3-point shooting nights). We knew we were going to need one to win,” Kerr said.
“Everyone on our team is confident,” said Poole. “And thank you Coach Kerr for allowing us to play with that confidence. We know what we are capable of.
The night’s biggest 3-pointer came from two-way guard Ty Jerome. With 1:39 in the fourth and the Warriors down to four, Jerome swung the ball to Looney, who immediately looked back at Jerome and returned the ball. Jerome took a dribble, shuffled to the right and launched the shot over Darius Garland with four seconds left on the shot clock.
For Jerome, the most striking statistic of the night was how evenly distributed the Warriors’ points were. Without its core, Golden State had six players with double-digit scores.
Jerome scored 22 while Donte DiVincenzo added 17, JaMychal Green 13, Anthony Lamb 12 and Jonathan Kuminga 10.
This was Green’s first game since December 20 after recovering from COVID-19 and a subsequent leg infection. It was also Kuminga’s first game back from a sprained right foot that has kept him out since January 2.
The Warriors’ win in Cleveland was the finale of their five-game road trip, which saw them lead 3-2. With Golden State going 6-18 this season, the Warriors see this trip to the East Coast as a sign of growth.
Now that they’re returning home with a much healthier roster than when they left, they’re hoping they can build up now to have a strong stretch toward the All-Star break and a good second half of the season overall.
“We have to win games along the way and we’ve done that on this journey,” Poole said. “Now we can go home … and try to play out the momentum we had tonight.”