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HomeNewsHow Jonathan Kuminga and Jordan Poole can lift a fatigued Warriors team

How Jonathan Kuminga and Jordan Poole can lift a fatigued Warriors team

Steve Kerr’s voice was clear. His pleas were heard loud enough for those behind the Warriors bench at the FedEx Forum.

“Shoot the ball!”

Kerr’s cries were aimed at Jonathan Kuminga – who left the Memphis Grizzlies wide open with the ball from 3. With no option for a pass for a better look, Kuminga took Kerr’s advice and fired the ball from the top left wing, hitting it.

Kuminga went 3-for-3 for 3 in the first half and 4-for-7 overall, scoring a team-high 24 points to prop up a noticeably tired Warriors team in Memphis. Despite his best efforts, the Warriors lost their 11th straight game on Saturday night, 133-119. But the 20-year-old’s performance offered a glimpse of what could be.

The Warriors’ lack of size and defensive versatility without Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II has a direct impact on their road woes. Opponents blast the lights from 3 when the Warriors come to town – the Grizzlies shot 47% on Saturday – in part because the small Warriors roster has to overcompensate on offense.

Kuminga is one of the few remaining who can add size and athleticism. He would certainly be a rotating mainstay if he made the opposing defense pay to keep him open from 3 like he did in Memphis.

Not only that, but Kuminga provided the energy to lift a tired core on the back half of a back-to-back; Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in particular have looked exhausted lately with a joint 12 turnover in Friday’s defeat and slow-scoring nights on Saturday. This was especially evident in his eight rebounds.

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“That was the most important thing. That’s what we’re looking for all the time,” Kerr said. “He had eight rebounds tonight, three offensive. If he consistently adds that to his game, it will change everything for him, so we’ll keep telling him about that. He’s a young guy so he’s learning so much every day and he’s progressing. So I am very happy with his development.”

Draymond Green’s encouragement after Kuminga threw the ball on a fastbreak resulted in Kuminga being fouled on a throwback attempt. His two free throws trimmed the Grizzlies’ 14-point lead at the start of the frame to 104–100 at the end of the third quarter.

“Who cares? Everybody’s bobbing the ball,” Green said. “I think emotionally, that’s always another hurdle
then necessarily come and play on the field. It usually takes a little longer to grow emotionally than it does from a skill perspective. You expect them to keep growing there, and I know he will, but you can also appreciate the competitiveness, a guy who wants to do everything right. I can’t beat that, that second time, as I told him. You cannot allow it to take you off your square.”

An effort by the Warriors to clear a 15-point deficit would not have been possible without Jordan Poole. The young guard who has struggled all season to find his rhythm offensively enough to overcome his defensive flaws.

Poole scored 21 points, including 17 points in the big third quarter. He did it by challenging the Memphis defense in the paint, going to the free throw line nine times in a matter of minutes.

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