Warriors vs Nuggets: Golden State’s unique and successful mix of old and new on full display in Game 1 win
SAN FRANCISCO — After another run in the third quarter from the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry headed for the stands, gesturing desperately for the home fans to get louder. From the start of Game 1 of the Warriors’ first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, the crowd’s shyness in the first-ever playoff game at Chase Center was more than noticeable, especially when contrasted with the former hallowed building of the organization across the bay. Bridge – the one who earned the nickname “Roaracle” for its pervasive, tympanic din.
It wasn’t meanness or frustration coming from Curry. It was the authorization. Loosen your ties. Let your hair down. Let’s be wild – it’s the Warriors. And we’re back in the playoffs.
“It was almost because the lead was so big, you lose the anxiety of the moment, and that’s when you remember like, it’s a playoff game. Every possession matters,” Curry said after the game. “I started pointing at the scoreboard, trying to get everyone interested, knowing you have to build on that momentum every game to create that advantage on the pitch.”
The sold-out crowd responded in kind, slowly building to a crescendo before launching into the haunting, goosebump-inducing chant of “Waaaaaarrrrrriiiiooooooorrrrrs.” Curry stood half-court, hands on knees, nodding in approval. While ubiquitous at Oracle, the brand’s chant has barely been uttered since the Chase Center opened its doors. It was a small taste of the success of the Warriors of the past making its way into the new era, much like the Curry 6 sneakers that Steph wore, paying homage to the building in which he became a basketball legend and ” passing the torch”. in its new surroundings.
There is a scene in a movie called “After Yang”, in which Yang, a humanoid robot bought as the older brother of a young Chinese girl adopted by non-Chinese parents, uses tree grafting as a metaphor to explain how cultures can mix to create something new and unique.
“The tree becomes part of another tree,” Yang says. “But you should know that both trees are important.”
In many ways in Saturday night’s 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors showed just how well they’ve blended the old and the new — a rare formula for enduring success in the fierce NBA.
Let’s start with the old one. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney played the same game for the first time since the 2019 final, nearly three years ago. The quintet has more titles than an 18th-century British nobleman, and all of their skills and quirks were on display in the opening game victory.
Thompson threw an airball heat check … on his first shot of the game. Green playing incredibly persistent defense on Nikola Jokic, a superstar six inches taller than him. Iguodala stripping the ball with his lightning fast hands and throwing passes behind the back into the corner. Looney collects the rebounds and scores inside despite being unable to jump over an iPad. And then there’s Curry, who started cold on the field en route to 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting in 22 minutes but generally finished plus-17 for the game.
“So special,” Thompson said of being back on the floor with the old guard. “Something that I won’t take for granted, just being able to play playoff basketball. It was very surreal to me.”
The stalwarts’ vintage performance was bolstered by the electricity of playoff newcomer Jordan Poole, who dazzled his way to 30 of 9 points for 13 shots, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. The 30 points tied Mitch Richmond for the most total of any Warrior in his playoff debut besides Wilt Chamberlain — talk about generational bridges.
Poole’s development has been visible since the second half of last season and has reached a new level over the past month and a half, but players with bigger CVs have melted away to the point of dissolving under the brighter lights. Poole passed his test with flying colors, as he has since past playoff games, and credited his dependable veterans for smoothing the transition into playoff basketball.
“There’s no better feeling than having guys behind you who’ve already been through the fight. They’ve come through it at the highest level,” Poole said after the match. “Knowing that if you make mistakes, you’ve got these guys coming to get you. There’s no better feeling than that.”
Poole wasn’t the only new face to make an impact either. Gary Payton II had five points, three rebounds, two assists and a monster block, while playing his usual brand of stifling defense. Nemanja Bjelica was as aggressive offensively 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 tied Green for the team-best plus-minus at plus-21.
Then, for a brief moment, we got a glimpse of the next green wave of contributors. With the game underway in the fourth quarter, rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody signed up to get their feet wet in the playoffs. Both played significant roles at different points in the regular season, and they’ll likely be called up in big playoff moments eventually — maybe as early as this series.
It’s incredibly difficult to keep winning in the NBA, even with the best players in the world on your payroll. The Warriors know that as well as anyone, having missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons due to injury issues and roster changes. The San Antonio Spurs were able to close the gap thanks to a legendary coach, the grace with which their Big Three aged and the strong arrival of Kawhi Leonard.
The Warriors hope they will eventually become synonymous with Spurs in terms of franchises that embody everlasting success, but they are careful not to get lost in daydreams. At the moment, they don’t allow themselves to think about the next round of the playoffs, let alone a championship. The only thing the Warriors are concerned about is Monday’s Game 2 against Denver.
“For guys who’ve been there and understand what that journey is like at this point in the season and the pursuit of the playoffs, yeah, you’re starting to think about what’s next. That’s because we’ve been there. and we know it,” Curry said after the game. “But it’s also a reminder that this group hasn’t done it yet.”