Warriors vs.  Nuggets: Golden State's successful and unique blend of old and new showcased in Race 1 victory

Warriors vs. Nuggets: Golden State’s successful and unique blend of old and new showcased in Race 1 victory

Warriors vs. Nuggets: Golden State’s successful and unique blend of old and new showcased in Race 1 victory

SAN FRANCISCO – After yet another run in the third quarter of the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry approached the stands, gesticulating desperately to get the volume of the home fans up. Since the start of the first game of the Warriors’ first round series against the Denver Nuggets, the audience’s shyness in the first ever playoff game at the Chase Center has been more than noticeable, particularly when contrasted with the organization’s former sanctified building. across the bay Bridge – the one that has earned the nickname “Roaracle” for its pervasive and crackling din.

It wasn’t curry’s mischief or frustration. It was the permit. Loosen your bonds. Let your hair down. Let’s go wild: these are the Warriors. And let’s go back to the playoffs.

“It was almost because the lead was so big, you lose the anxiety of the moment, and that’s where you remind yourself that this is a playoff game. Every possession matters,” Curry said after the game. “I started aiming for the scoreboard, trying to convince everyone, knowing that you have to build on that momentum every game to create that advantage on the home field.”

The exhausted crowd responded the same way, slowly reaching a crescendo before launching into the eerie, goosebump chant of “Waaaaaarrrrriiiioooooorrrrrs”. Curry was in the middle of the field, hands on his knees, nodding his head in approval. Though ubiquitous at Oracle, the brand’s chant has only barely been uttered since Chase Center opened its doors. It was a small taste of past Warriors success making their way into the new era, much like the Curry 6 sneakers that Steph wore, paying homage to the building where he became a basketball legend and “turning off the torch” to his new surroundings. .

There is a scene in a film called “After Yang” where Yang, a humanoid robot bought as the elder brother of a young Chinese girl adopted by non-Chinese parents, uses tree grafting as a metaphor to explain how cultures can merge with creating something new and unique.

“The tree is becoming part of another tree,” says Yang. “But you should know that both trees are important.”

In so many ways during Saturday night’s 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors showed just how successfully they mixed the old with the new – a rare formula for lasting success in the ruthless NBA.

Let’s start with the old. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney all played in the same game for the first time since the 2019 Finals almost three years ago. The quintet has more titles than an 18th century British noble and all their skills and quirks have been shown in the victory in Race 1.

Thompson performed an airball thermal check … on his first shot of the game. Green plays an unfathomably persistent defense on Nikola Jokic, a superstar six inches taller than him. Iguodala snatches the ball with his lightning-fast hands and throws passes behind his back into the corner. Looney collects rebounds and scores inside despite being unable to skip an iPad. And then there’s Curry, who started cold from the field en route to 16 points out of 5 out of 13 shooting in 22 minutes, but typically finished at plus-17 for the game.

“So special,” Thompson said of being back on the floor with the old guard. “Something I won’t take for granted, just being able to play basketball in the playoffs. It was very surreal for me.”

The vintage performance of the pillars was buoyed by the electricity of playoff newcomer Jordan Poole, who dazzled his way to 30 points out of 9 out of 13, including 5 out of 7 by 3 points. The 30 points tied Mitch Richmond for the highest total for any Warrior in his playoff debut besides Wilt Chamberlain – talk about bridging the generations.

Poole’s development has been on show since the second half of last season, and has gone to a new level in the past month and a half, but players with bigger resumes have melted to the point of dissolving under the brightest lights. Poole has passed his test with flying colors, as he has done since the last post-season play-in games, and has credited him with reliable veterans for facilitating the transition to playoff basketball.

“There is no better feeling than having the guys behind you who have already faced the fight. They have faced it at the highest level,” said Poole after the game. “Knowing that if you make mistakes, you have those guys who will come and get you. There is no better feeling than that.”

Poole wasn’t the only new face to make an impact either. Gary Payton II scored five points, three rebounds, two assists and a monstrous block as he played with his usual stifling defense. Nemanja Bjelica has been as aggressive in attack as he has been all season, scoring eight points in 15 minutes. Otto Porter Jr. provided four points and four assists in 25 minutes and equaled Green for the team’s best plus-minus at plus-21.

So, for a brief moment, we caught a glimpse of the next green wave of contributors. With the game in hand in the fourth quarter, rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody checked in to get their playoff feet wet. They both played major roles at different times throughout the regular season and will likely eventually be called up during the big playoff moments, perhaps as soon as this series.

It is incredibly difficult to keep winning in the NBA, even with the best players in the world on your payroll. The Warriors know this as well as anyone else, missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons amid injury problems and roster changes. The San Antonio Spurs were able to bridge the gap due to a legendary manager, the grace with which their Big Three have aged and the overbearing arrival of Kawhi Leonard.

The Warriors hope they will eventually become synonymous with Spurs in terms of franchises embodying immortal success, but they are careful not to get lost in daydreams. Right now they are not allowing themselves to reflect on the next round of the playoffs, let alone a championship. The only thing on the Warriors’ mind is Monday’s Game 2 against Denver.

“For the guys who have been there and understand what that journey is like at this stage of the season and the playoff chase, yeah, you start thinking about what’s next. That’s because we’ve been there and we know it,” Curry said. after the match. “But it’s also a reminder that this group hasn’t done it yet.”

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