Jordan Poole gave the Golden State Warriors a much-needed offensive jolt late in the third quarter of Friday’s matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. He’d scored just two points up to then, shooting 1-of-6 overall and clanking all three of his triples while contributing to his team’s inability to contain the ball and lazy transition defense on the other end.

But Poole’s scoring burst rendered his lackadaisical prior performance moot on the surface, the short-handed, road-weary Warriors seemingly coming to life behind his personal eight-point run.

He got Trae Young on a switch, stepping back for a filthy wing triple. The Warriors put Young in the same ball screen action their next trip down, Poole absolutely roasting him off the bounce before going right at Onyeka Okongwu’s chest for a tough finish. Running off a Hawks turnover, Donte DiVincenzo found Poole with a slick cross-court bounce pass in the corner some 10 seconds later, Poole nearly falling out of bounds as his high-arching three tickled the twine.

The problem? Golden State was outscored by two in the final 2:08 of the third quarter regardless, that palpable momentum provided by Poole’s mini explosion muted by the Hawks mercilessly attacking him defensively between scores.

Here’s a supercut of Poole’s defense during that highly illuminating portion of Friday’s game, a stretch in which Atlanta capitalized on four of five possessions by targeting the Warriors’ most exploitable defender—an increasingly common refrain the deeper the reigning champs get into 2022-23.

Poole played just under 24 minutes against the Hawks, a surprisingly low amount considering Golden State played without Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, not to mention Gary Payton II and Andre Igudoala. The last time he got that relatively little burn was in the Warriors’ win over the Chicago Bulls at Chase Center on December 2nd, a game the home team controlled throughout largely due to Poole’s 30 points and seven long balls on just 18 shot attempts.

Golden State certainly could’ve used Poole’s offense down the stretch of its 10th straight road loss. Season-long crunch-time struggles continued dogging the Warriors in Atlanta. They scored just five points over the game’s last five minutes, squandering multiple chances to take the lead with rushed perimeter jumpers and rote late-game execution.

Rest assured that Poole would’ve been on the floor on the floor in the clutch if he’d given Steve Kerr reason to believe game-long defensive gaffes would be curbed when it mattered most. Instead, giving Steph Curry a quick breather midway through the fourth quarter, Poole was part of a team-wide letdown emblematic of the Warriors’ sustained labors away from home.

After Golden State hounded John Collins for a rare paint stop, Klay Thompson tried to pitch the ball ahead to a sprinting Poole in transition. His hard chest pass was off the mark, though, another unforced error the Warriors compounded by hanging their heads after the ball went out of bounds.

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Who hits a subsequent catch-and-shoot three as the Hawks hurry the ball up the floor? DeAndre Hunter, the player Poole—still out of frame by the time an exasperated Kerr calls timeout immediately after the make—was checking on the prior possession.

Poole dies on picks on and off the ball, both failing to do his work early and getting chucked off-course by screeners. He was wrong-footed by ball-screen rejections from Young multiple times on Friday, a bugaboo all season. No Warrior misses more rotations on the back-line. Poole’s red meat for elite ball handlers from the opening tip, the biggest reason why it’s so difficult to play him in crunch-time when those superstars start really hunting—and Golden State needs his offensive dynamism most.

Raw on-off data paints Poole, who’s played about half his minutes with Green, as a slight positive defensively. The most basic eye test casts clear doubt on those numbers, as do other advanced stats. Poole’s -2.0 defensive RAPTOR is the Warriors’ worst and a bottom-25 mark league-wide, per FiveThirtyEight. His -1.72 defensive real plus-minus ranks 46th among shooting guards, per ESPN, and he lowest among anyone at that position playing at least 30 minutes a game.

In mid-October, after Poole signed a well-earned four-year, $123 million extension with the Dubs, Kerr explained the next step in his development was to “become a better two-way guy.” Golden State went away from lineups featuring Poole and Curry the further it advanced into last year’s playoffs. With Poole locked up-long term, part of the Warriors’ ideal evolution as Curry ages is the ability to play them together without getting abused defensively.

“I’m gonna keep talking to him about his defense because I want him to play big minutes. He’s earned this contract, he’s earned every penny,” Kerr said. “But I reminded him, last year in the playoffs I think he played 17 or 18 minutes a game. I wanna play him 30, 32 minutes, but that can only happen if he continues his progression as a player on the defensive end.”

There are many reasons—presumed possibilities coming into the year and otherwise—why Golden State has failed to live up to expectations this season. Poole’s surprising offensive regression is on that list, but written in bold is his status as one of the several most flammable rotation players in basketball.

The Warriors won’t fail to repeat as champions due to that reality alone. With wins so hard to come by since the season tipped off, though, the never-realized lineup and stylistic opportunities presented by Poole’s porous defense are looming extra large for Golden State at exactly the wrong time.

“I thought last night he let his guard down a little bit [defensively], picked it up in the second half and we made a run,” Kerr said of Poole in mid-February, the day after a win over the Washington Wizards. “His defense is always going to be crucial in determining who wins the game.”