Stephen Curry returns, and Golden State defeats the Nuggets

Clay Thompson squirted a little. Draymand Green made stops and deftly found open cutters. Stephen Curry attracted several defenders every time he touched the ball.

The trio, which outscored basketball on its way to winning the championship series with the Golden State Warriors, reunited in the playoffs on Saturday for the first time since 2019. And, as in many games of that era, the high-octane Warriors were dominant, defeating the Denver Nuggets in the opening game of the first playoff round, 123-107.

With an unexpected step Curry started the game on the bench. Instead, coach Steve Kerr started third-year bodyguard Jordan Poole, who has a career year. The move seemed to be aimed at keeping Curry on a strict minute limit. It was his first game since March 16 when he injured his left leg against the Boston Celtics.

The exchange paid off. Poole was exceptional in his first playoff game of his career, scoring 30 points – a big game – with 9 in 13 shots, electrifying the Chase Center crowd in San Francisco.

Curry last left the bench during the playoffs on May 1, 2018, in the second game of the Western Conference semifinals against the New Orleans Pelicans when he broke away from a knee injury. Saturday against Denver was only the third playoff game in Curry’s career in which he played but didn’t start.

He participated in the competition in about half of the first quarter to a standing ovation. Almost immediately Curry felt his presence, finding Thompson for an open 3-point from the corner and stealing a pass between the two defenders into the open Green to score. Otherwise he had a hard time scoring 5 on 13 from the field, scoring 16 points.

Meanwhile, Thompson looked like the player he was before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee during the 2019 NBA Finals. He moved quickly to find an open view, on the way to five three-pointers and 19 points in total.

Golden State was able to knock down Denver Jokic, the favorite for the “Most Valuable Player” award, which would be his second award. The Warriors constantly forced Jokic to make difficult blows and disappointed him with a steady stream of double teams. They also tried to tire him in defense by setting up possession with him as the main defender on the ball.

When the fourth quarter came, Jokic looked exhausted. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists.

The opening of the playoffs was a return to the spotlight of the main players of “Golden State”, who won the championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Curry, Green, Thompson and Andre Iguadala are the four leaders in the history of the franchise in the post-season games. But it was the first time, largely due to injury, that the Warriors have reached the playoffs since 2019, when the team lost in the Toronto Raptors final in six games. The only time all four played in one game this year was on January 9, Thompson’s first game after he missed two seasons due to a leg injury. Green started the game only briefly to support Thompson before sitting out until the end of the night.

Both teams had significant injury problems during the season. Green missed more than two months of the regular season behind Golden State due to a back injury. In Denver, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray missed most or all of the season.

It was the fourth year in a row for Denver to reach the playoffs; the team advanced to the first round each of the last three seasons.

On Monday, the Nuggets will try to equalize a series of seven games with one game.

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