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NBA

The Warriors Are Back, And They’re Incredible

Steph Curry goes up for a shot
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After literal years in which injuries kept them from playing with a full-strength roster, the Golden State Warriors have returned to their old, healthy, hot-shooting selves at the absolute worst time for the rest of the NBA. And on Monday night, in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Nuggets, their combination of legendary former champs and relatively new additions put together their second-straight performance befitting a favorite to win it all.

The Nugs scored the game’s first seven points, and they led by as many as 11 in the first quarter thanks to a dominant start by Nikola Jokic. Then, after Golden State brought it closer to end the quarter, they extended their advantage back out to 12 in the middle of the second. But with the kind of offensive weapons the Warriors possess, they’re never more than a few minutes away from erasing any but the most commanding of leads, and the trio of Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and then newly coronated third splash brother Jordan Poole spent the middle portion of the game scoring at an inimitable pace. It was 101-81, Warriors, at the end of the third, and the fourth just became a space for the Nuggets to vent their frustrations.

Curry was just unbelievable, especially when you factor in all his body has been through. Coming off the bench as a way to better control his minutes after his recent foot sprain, Curry made the most of a limited opportunity and put together a classic outing in about half the time as those showings might normally take. Steph scored 34 on 12-of-17 shooting while spending a mere 23 minutes on the court. That’s nearly a point-and-a-half per minute! And perhaps just as importantly for the Warriors’ psyche and swagger, Curry didn’t look at all like a 34-year-old easing himself into the action after another physical setback, agilely dribbling through all the nooks and crannies the Nuggets defense gave him while showing no hesitation from beyond the arc.

Klay Thompson, playing in his most meaningful games since the 2019 Finals loss to the Raptors after coming back from multiple debilitating injuries, was also in vintage form, following up on a 19-point performance in Game 1 with 21 points in Game 2. But even more terrifying is the emergence of Jordan Poole, the third-year former 28th-overall pick out of Michigan, who maintained his momentum from a star-making 30-point first game to score 29 on Monday, with eight assists. It was some brilliant and flashy passing from Poole that unlocked multiple Warriors highlights, but even more uncanny is the fact that he can shoot just like Klay and Steph, with that same level of creativity, fearlessness, and emphatic accuracy. He’s like the dude introduced in the fourth or fifth installment of a movie franchise when the aging stars need to hand it off to somewhat younger—the Adonis Creed to Steph and Klay’s Rocky Balboa. You’ll see it especially in the first play here:

And then there’s Draymond Green, who continues to compliment all this beauty with infuriatingly tough play beyond the box score. Though Green scored just six points, and his counterpart at center Jokic scored 26, the Warriors S.O.B. still made life a nightmare for the Nuggets star, forcing an inefficient evening by refusing to give him anything easy and eventually pushing him to his breaking point through hard-nosed defense down low. With seven minutes to play, Jokic picked up his second technical of the night when he didn’t get the foul call he wanted on a miss from seven feet, effectively putting the punctuation at the end of this Nuggets loss. Green, true to form, waved goodbye to him from the middle of the court.

“If you feel like you’re getting under their skin you press up a little more,” Green said after the game. “If you don’t feel like you’re getting under their skin, you press up a little more.”

The Nuggets’ current situation is not unlike the one the Warriors were in last year, when Curry dragged a wounded and underwhelming squad into the play-in games. Without Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr., this didn’t feel like the right time for Denver to go deep into the playoffs, even with another MVP-level year from Jokic. But still, it’s stunning to see just how easily the Warriors have reached this championship-caliber gear and imposed their will on a very good opponent through the opening salvo of the playoffs. There’s still a long way to go, and Golden State fans are likely already preparing themselves for the possibility that somebody’s leg will once again take them out of action at a high-impact moment. But for now, these kinds of wins are something to wholeheartedly enjoy. One of the greatest teams of all time seemed like they might be lost to the history books, but all of a sudden, it’s starting to look like 2015 all over again.

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