Thompson: Jordan Poole’s third-quarter surge vs. The Clippers felt like old times

SAN FRANCISCO — On his way to the showers, draped in a pair of black towels, Jordan Poole stopped to watch a highlight playing on the screen in Moses Moody’s locker. It was TNT’s replay of Poole’s 3-pointer from the left wing early in the fourth quarter against the Clippers.

“Look at this,” he said to some teammates behind him.

He saw himself holding the follow-up in the air and turning his attention to the cheering fans. He scowled in superiority, three fingers raised to the sky. In the super slow motion replay, his preaching to the audience was clear.

I… really… do… this… shhh

“Look,” Poole said, laughing as he stripped for the showers. “They always cut it off.”

But he really does. The focus on him is so often centered on what he can’t do. But he is Jordan Poole because this is what he can do. He is an exceptional skating talent. Chaos with handles and a smooth sweater. On Thursday night, he brought back a Warriors tradition.

He scored 22 of his 34 points in the third quarter, igniting the Warriors in a comeback wave reminiscent of their peak years. The Clippers were stunned by a 42-16 Warriors blitz that turned the game — and, in a way, the standings. The author of the famous third quarters sat on the bench in a sweatsuit, days after his return. The last third quarter of 20 or more points was on May 8, 2021, when Stephen Curry did it against Oklahoma City at the Chase Center.

Curry has scored 20 or more in a quarter 43 times. Klay Thompson has done it 12 times, including an all-time high of 37 (also in the third quarter). Poole now have two. The only other player to do it twice in a Warriors uniform in the last 20 seasons is Kevin Durant.

This part makes the Poole Party absolutely worth it. Because special is worthy of patience. Because this kind of potential should be pruned. Because you take his wild shots and know that when they fall, they ignite the team and the opposition can crumble.


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No one knows this better than Steve Kerr, who Curry had reprogrammed his shot selection paradigm. Remember the famous moment when Curry dribbled through 8,000 Clippers and hoisted a 3, causing Kerr to throw up his hands in dismay before it went in? Poole’s heat checks before he’s hot are par for Kerr’s career.

“I think the game has changed so much,” Kerr said. “And I think, to be honest, Steph and Klay helped spur that change. … That moment you’re referring to was probably a couple of months into the season. The first two months, all I could hear in my head , Lute Olson and Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich who said to me, ‘That’s a terrible shot. That’s a terrible shot. At that point, I looked at the stats, and Steph shot 42 percent, and Klay shot 41 percent. I said, “OK, that’s a good shot. For those guys.

“Since then, it’s been like the whole league is shooting those shots. And it’s not necessarily a good shot for everyone. I don’t necessarily think a lot of those shots are good for Jordan. All you have to do is look at percentages to know if something is a good shot. What I love about Jordan is that he’s still developing, he’s still growing.”

The heights of Poole get quite high. The electricity of his best game. The nuisance he can be for opponents. He was the best player on the floor in a game that featured Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Draymond Green, Russell Westbrook and Thompson. On any given night, no matter who is on the floor, Poole can be the best player.

When Poole is in that form, No. 3 has notes of No. 30 – the younger version anyway. He was in that mode against the Clippers. With playoff positioning up for grabs, he took over. He did it by not settling for deep 3s.

After shooting 3-for-10 from deep against Portland, Poole missed his first two 3-pointers against the Clippers. So he focused on attacking off the dribble. His first points came at the free throw line early in the second quarter, followed by a layup the next. He missed two more 3-pointers, then went back to attacking inside. He finished the half with a layup, a put-back on an offensive rebound and a mid-range jumper off a dribble pass from Green.

“Earlier in the first half, first quarter, honestly, I’m just analyzing the coverages,” Poole said, “to see how the defense is playing me. See how they’re playing other guys. Knowing this year that I’m going to be a lot on the ball, being able to be aggressive and create shots for my teammates and myself, I can kind of read more and analyze more during the game. In the first quarter, second quarter, I’m still trying to see what the defense is doing. The third quarter is kind of when you try to be aggressive and attack it and try to put the team in different coverages and see how it goes.”

In the third he was in a rhythm. He hit a layup 3 over Westbrook, then — after picking Westbrook’s pocket — hit another 3 in transition. But he didn’t take heat-check 3. His next bucket was a layup in transition, converted in traffic with the foul. He looked at the crowd with wide eyes and declared his own amazement at himself.


The most important thing was that the Warriors’ deficit was down to 3. The Clippers were disoriented when the Chase Center was engaged. You never know with this team how long the spurt will last or if it will give it all back, but tonight was vintage Warriors – and the opposition won’t recover.

There is an electric quality to him. Poole is certainly the type of player that will drive you absolutely crazy. But then he puts together a show like Thursday and reminds you why he’s allowed to do that.

“Just a great night by Jordan,” Thompson said. “He led us (Thursday) and I’m just incredibly proud of him, coming back from not (having) the best shooting games the last two or something. But it doesn’t affect him. He is such a great player.”

Poole also definitely cannot be the best player. His fourth season has been quite the roller coaster ride. Battling defenses that are more prepared for him, his own shortcomings, his relative inexperience, the variability of his role juggling between sixth man and starting guard, and his emotional volatility — all have combined to produce some clunkers. He is having his worst shooting season since his rookie year and is third in the NBA in total turnovers.

The assumption in all of this is that Poole will continue to grow. Everything about his career suggests he will. He completely transformed his career from the rookie who christened the Chase Center with resounding. He is known for his work ethic. His confidence is categorically undeterred. Not by a G League relegation. Not of the postseason games. Not from a leaked video. Not with brutal turnovers late in a loss. Not by being pulled in the clutch for defense.

And that unwavering faith has shown a tendency to produce magic.

Perhaps the signature moment of his explosive third quarter came at the end. An open 3 he missed, bounced off the rim and was headed out of bounds toward the baseline near the Warriors bench. But Poole used his speed to track it down, dived to save it and keep possession alive. He landed on a Louis Vuitton covered cushion that was E-40. The rap star helped Poole up, and the Warriors guard ran to the right corner, near the same spot where he just missed.

The play was chaos. Poole bailed it out to Jonathan Kuminga, who passed to Donte DiVincenzo who cut to the basket. DiVincenzo went up for a layup, but ran into Clippers center Mason Plumlee, prompting him to dump it over his shoulder back to Kuminga. The pass was not caught cleanly, and Kuminga had to quickly intercept the loose ball from Plumlee. All the while, the Chase Center was riveting. An insane energy circulated through the arena like electricity. The final seconds of the quarter ticked away, and the nostalgic third quarter just needed some punctuation. That’s when Kuminga found Poole standing alone.

With Curry crouched behind him, watching closely and anticipating the burst, Poole drilled the 3-pointer and jogged back before it splashed. The building roared. The Clippers crumbled. Nostalgia ruled.

(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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