Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole combined for 29 points in the Warriors’ Western Conference playoffs defeats to the Los Angeles Lakers in Games 3 and 4.
Lonnie Walker IV scored 27 points off the bench for the Lakers in the past two games. That, more than anything, captures the tale of the series, with the Warriors currently down by three games to one.
Steph Curry, who recorded a triple-double of 31 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds in the defeat, can lead the Warriors in Game 5. Perhaps even in a probable Game 6. In a Game 7, anything may happen.
However, assistance is required now more than ever after the Warriors’ 104-101 Game 4 setback.
Thompson had two perspectives going into this star-studded series: He’ll either go off or be very off. There would be no middle ground.
Thompson, a native of Los Angeles and the son of a Showtime Laker, said immediately after defeating the Sacramento Kings in the first round that he had been waiting 12 years (his whole career) to face his boyhood club in the playoffs. He looked up to Kobe Bryant. That meant either an explosion or forcing one and eagerly waiting for it to never completely materialise.
Thompson scored 25 points and nailed six 3-pointers in his opening game of the series, a five-point defeat at Chase Centre, but shot just 36 percent (9 of 25) from the field. Game 2 was much more of what the Warriors needed from the Splash Brothers’ second half. He scored 30 points while shooting 61.1 percent (11 of 18) and 72.7 percent (8 of 11) from 3-point range.
However, Thompson has averaged 12 points on 33.3 percent shooting (8 of 25) and 32 percent (6 of 18) beyond the 3-point line in the previous two games, both Warriors defeats in Los Angeles. He was restricted to nine points on Monday night, shooting three of eleven from the field and three of nine from three. His last two shots were unforgivable for a player who will one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
First, with the Warriors leading by one point and more than two minutes remaining in regulation, Thompson had just five seconds on the shot clock but the whole right side of the court open. Instead, he let it go from 28 feet out and saw it clang off the back of the rim.
“That one with five seconds on the shot clock, I wish I could have that back, gotten a better look,” Thompson told reporters in the Warriors locker room after the defeat, according to Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News.
Thompson elicited some irate Warriors responses on another terrible choice from deep 34 seconds later. The Warriors were behind by one point this time, and Thompson had 14 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He wasn’t on a roll, and this wasn’t a heat test.
It was an untimely effort by Thompson to do it himself, at the worst possible time.
“That one on the left wing, I feel like I rushed it,” Thompson said, according to Rubin. “I should have taken my time.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr falls back and grips his head, unable to comprehend what he has just seen. He’s been teaching Thompson for over a decade and has seen his fair share of crazy shots. Thompson’s two late heaves were completely inexcusable.
Draymond Green raises his hands, extends his arms, and looks at Thompson. Even without sound, one can readily see him wondering, “WHY?!?!?!” Jonathan Kuminga, the Warriors’ 20-year-old super-athlete who has been benched, physically stands up and walks away.
“I trust Klay,” Kerr said. “I consider all he has done for this squad. He’ll fire away because it’s part of who he is. There were a handful that were late who he would probably prefer to have back. That is a part of who we are as a group. “We are going to fire.”If Steph or Klay see an opportunity, they will take it. They’ve certainly enjoyed a lot of success throughout the years.”
Even in a defeat, Game 1 of the conference semifinals looked like a template for Jordan Poole. For various reasons, the explosive and mesmerising guard scored 21 points on 15 shots while without turning the ball over once. He shot 7-of-15, made 6 of 11 3-point tries, and had six assists. Poole led the Warriors in plus/minus with a plus/minus of -7.
Since then, everything has gone bad.
Poole has 11 points in his past three games. He had six points and was a plus-8 in the Warriors’ Game 2 triumph, ranking him second on the team’s bench. Poole scored five points and six mistakes in the Warriors’ two consecutive defeats.
In those two games, he shot 2 of 13 from the field and missed all six of his 3-point attempts. Poole, who was already down 2-1 in the game, went scoreless Monday night. The 23-year-old went scoreless on four shots, two 3-pointers, and had the same number of assists (2) as turnovers.
Poole appeared for little over eight minutes in the first half before being replaced immediately after a live-ball fumble in the third quarter. He played a little more than two minutes in the third quarter and sat out the whole fourth quarter, while Moses Moody played about ten minutes.
“Nothing changes, just work,” Poole said in the locker room to reporters. “It’s bigger than the present moment.” In the long term, you want to be the greatest player possible. Work ethic does not alter, nor does routine.Perhaps opportunity shifts, but you can only manage what you can control.”
From a four-year contract deal worth up to $140 million that begins next season to the iconic training camp punch, Poole has been in the limelight, sometimes deservedly, sometimes unjustly. But the stats are there, and they haven’t been beautiful this postseason.
Poole averaged 12 points on 33.8 percent shooting and 25.7 percent from 3-point range in the first round against the Sacramento Kings. Malik Monk averaged 19 points off the bench for the Kings, shooting 40.9 percent and 33.3 percent from three-point range. Those shooting percentages aren’t fantastic, but Monk did score more than 20 points three times and pushed the Warriors on the ropes.
Poole is averaging 8.0 points on 35.3 percent shooting and 31.6 percent from outside the arc as the conference semifinals return to San Francisco. Walker, who did not play in Game 1, is averaging 12.0 points on 60.9 percent shooting and 36.4 percent from long range for the series. Poole scored 17.0 points on 11.5 shots per game in the playoffs last year, shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range.
Curry, like he often does, defended Poole on Monday night.
“We get a lot of questions about him, and our whole team is all together in terms of figuring out how to win playoff games,” Curry said. “Considering we’re down 3-1, we all have to make adjustments and play better.”Isolating him makes no sense in this scenario. It’s all about what we can do as a group to improve…. If we want to get out of this hole, we must all play better.”
Curry’s backup scorers are hurting him a lot, given how much his leadership mirrors his ability on the floor. Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors’ fourth scoring option after Thompson and Poole, should ideally be a two-way player who contributes significantly defensively.
Those two are mostly responsible for counting buckets and watching the scoreboard churn in the Warriors’ favour. Of course, the Warriors must improve collectively, as Curry emphasised. If Thompson and Poole can’t find their shooting in front of their home crowd on Wednesday, the Warriors will face an onslaught of questions this summer.