The Golden State Warriors went back to their title-winning starting lineup in a much-needed win at Chase Center on Saturday.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney raced out to an 18-7 lead over the Dallas Mavericks, overwhelming a visiting team playing without not just top-tier MVP candidate Luka Doncic, but also Christian Wood. If not for Curry leaving late in the third quarter with a lower left leg injury, Golden State surely wouldn't have almost blown another massive second-half advantage while holding on for a 119-113 victory.
Steve Kerr addressed Curry's status on the postgame podium, saying he didn't know if the injury was related to the “left lower leg” contusion that had him on Saturday's injury report and—just like all of Dub Nation—was merely awaiting MRI results to come. Curry's injury, obviously, is by far the biggest story to come from Saturday's game.
Depending on what further testing on Curry determines, though, Kerr revealed another development that could be just as significant to Golden State's hopes of climbing the packed Western Conference standings over the second half of the regular season.
“I'm gonna go back to that,” Kerr said of the Warriors' starting group with Looney beside their four current and former All-Stars. “We got a good look at the smaller lineup—I think it was nine games, if I'm not mistaken. And I just came to the conclusion that our best bet was to start with the bigger lineup. We know that five-man unit is the No. 1 or No. 2 lineup in the NBA, and that was with a big sample size. So we like that unit, and we feel like our bench is playing better now. We've got more continuity there.”
Jordan Poole had started each of the past nine games for Golden State before Saturday, a majority of which the Warriors were at full-strength. It's uncertain how Poole's personal struggles—at their worst against Dallas, when he had more turnovers (four) than points—of late factor into Kerr going back to the starting unit he knows works.
What's been clear for a long time is that this team's traditional starting five is much more effective at large than the ‘Poole Party.'
Among all lineups league-wide that have notched at least 200 possessions of non-garbage time this season, Golden State's opening quintet with Looney ranks second with a +21.3 net rating, per Cleaning the Glass. The unit with Poole in Looney's place, by contrast, sports an unspectacular +2.9 net rating.
Poole will play plenty with Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Green over the season's remainder. The Warriors closed second halves with that lineup when fully healthy over the first few weeks of the season, and it will remain maybe the go-to option for Kerr in certain instances of time and score going forward—whether or not the opponent is playing small.
Would it really shock anyone if Poole started at least one playoff game for Looney? Kerr has downsized since the dawn of Golden State's dynasty when his team needs a jolt in the postseason.
Still, don't overlook the importance of this decision amid the fog of concern about Curry's injury.
“We're gonna go back to that lineup, and keep pushing,” Kerr said. “We've tried a lot of different things, and obviously we're looking for a spark. We'll see how it goes.”