In postseason analysis, the term “X-factor” has been dropped by many. Its use often has positive connotations – a player who defies expectations and helps his team win by doing things outside of his scouting report.
Consider Derrick White, who played hero for Boston in Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals, shooting 5-of-8 from 3-point range with 31.2 percent of regular-season outside shooters.
However, the reality is this: being an X-factor does not
always Associated with team success. As Jackson Frank wrote this week, Jordan Poole can swing in either direction in the Finals. Through one game, Poole’s gravitational pull is certainly not good for the Golden State Warriors.
Poole rose to prominence in the first playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, averaging 21.0 points on a 71.5 true shooting percentage. His production dwindled over the next two series, though he was able to maintain a terrific rate of 72.7 percent TS in the Western Conference finals.
However, battling against the best defense in the league on the biggest stage possible could prove to be a different type of test, and we saw it unfold on Thursday night.
Poole’s Finals debut didn’t go as planned. He had just 9 points on 2-of-7 shooting, four turnovers, and a minus-19 in 25 minutes.
that’s right.Golden State Warriors are almost defeated minute by minute When Poole was on the floor. The hard-working, tenacious and experienced Boston team had scouting reports printed on the inside of their eyelids, underscoring his inadequacies tenfold. The Celtics’ hustler brigade quickly turned Poole’s dreamy postseason into a nightmarish scenario.
Poole’s touch, swing, fluidity and ability to create from a standstill are all special for a player his age. Some might say it’s not teachable. There’s a reason he’s Golden State’s most explosive creator, and he can generate drive-and-kick magic by simply flicking the throttle and quickly overrunning his assignment to force defenses to converge. Many times, he will use a mix of hesitations, head fakes, and crossovers to initiate the slightest separation.
When it works, the highlights are delightful. If it doesn’t, Golden State’s slap-action offense can quickly get into an isolated quagmire of standing and eating the clock.
Boston was well-prepared for Poole’s slippery nature, shutting off the water and turning the Golden State Warriors’ splashing prodigy into a dry basin. The Celtics effectively let Poole carry himself into a pretzel, flashing every And-1 move in his bag to no avail. When the Warriors guard did swoosh downhill, Boston quickly erased that airspace by hugging him tightly and pressing his every dribble, denying the chance to show his dazzling layup bag.
Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart were always quick to overwhelm opponents’ turnovers, and they each stole a shot against Poole when he showed his hand and made the mistake a 20-year-old would make. Steals: Failed to hit the ball from a triple-threat position. The first and later idiotic attempts at rotational movement in transitions, both of which can be viewed in the clip below.
In terms of scoring, Poole showed a clear interference with Boston’s pick-and-roll defense. Unlike Stephen Curry, Poole couldn’t burn Boston with pull-ups when the Celtics let their defenses up in front of him. Having Boston’s bigs play higher on the floor will only further expose Poole’s limitations as a primary creator.
In the second clip of the video below, he almost gives the phrase “buzzer hitter” a new meaning, after Al Horford stepped forward and shaded Poole with Smart’s help. Broke the shot clock with a wrong shot.
Shooting, even Peyton Pritchard, Boston’s most targeted defender in the first three series, was able to survive the minutes he was matched up with Poole. Pritchard has the necessary speed to keep an eye on Golden State’s annoying lightning rod, and Poole lacks the core strength that usually overwhelms and forces Boston’s backup guards off the court.
Here, Pritchard was great on Andre Iguodala’s screens and back views, and he was pitted against Poole on one of his four long-range shots out of a total of five outside shots. .
One thing the Warriors should explore is that Poole and Curry are both involved in off-ball action when the two are on the floor. Doing so gave Curry one of his cleanest performances of the game, and Poole would have done it easily if the roles were reversed, as he shot 43.8 percent from the field in the playoffs. At the very least, using his scoring gravity to stay away from the game is a more prudent strategy than just spoon-feeding him pick-and-roll balls in the damn Finals and hoping for the best.
Look, it’s not unthinkable to imagine that the 22-year-old will eventually gain a foothold on offense. He’s too gifted a scorer to continue this type of production. What worries Golden State is how ill-prepared Poole’s defense looked in the closing stages. When the Warriors played Poole with either Curry (-13 together) or Klay Thompson (-13 together), the Warriors were hollowed out, and he was included in Golden State’s small-ball lineup, No. Negative 9 points in four quarters is the ultimate nail in the coffin.
Against the tried-and-true Boston cues, Poole looked overwhelmed with every aspect of the defense, which is understandable for a 22-year-old playing in his first Finals. His finishing was sloppy, causing him to tee off in the middle of the paint. Transition defense appears to be entirely optional. Perhaps most importantly, Boston gave up entirely at the thought of putting Poole in the pick-and-roll.even in Poole
reduce. Yes, how bad is that.
Poole will be an evergreen target on defense when facing mismatched Boston teams like Blade Runner and will soon see his role diminished if his offensive prowess doesn’t cover up his defensive deficiencies . If the lights are too bright for the prodigy combo guard, Golden State has other options.
The now-healthy Gary Payton II is just begging for a chance against Jaylen Brown and Tatum. Otto Porter Jr. is arguably up in the minutes following his first game. Heck, if Boston’s size and athleticism continue to confuse Golden State’s old group, even Jonathan Cuminga or Moses Moody are worth a look.
Poole’s meteoric rise was remarkable, and after a stellar postseason, he quickly established himself as one of the league’s brightest rising stars. Boston and its titanium defense represent a whole new challenge, and his uptick in production could well be the catalyst for the Golden State Warriors to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in a matter of weeks.
The Warriors are 1-0 and Jordan Poole is the ultimate X-factor now more than ever. It remains to be seen which team, Boston or Golden State, will enjoy the spoils of his output.