Warriors observations: Jordan Poole, bench power opening win vs. Lakers

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What we learned as Poole, bench lead Warriors past Lakers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

There was a common theme throughout the Warriors' season-opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night: How are the Warriors down by only ... ?

It's a question that kept popping up from start to finish until it became: How are they winning? The Warriors beat the Lakers 121-114 at Staples Center, but it felt like the victory snuck up on them, not having full control of the game until the final minutes. Those final minutes were convincing, though.

After struggling early on and simply looking out of place, the Warriors evened out the level of play in the second half. They regained their shooting and turned their defense up, going on a 7-0 run with just under four minutes to go in the game and outscoring the Lakers 38-29 in the fourth overall.

Six Warriors finished in double-digits led by Steph Curry's 21 and Jordan Poole's 20. Nemanja Bjelica and Damion Lee added 15 each, while Andrew Wiggins scored 12 and Andre Iguodala had 10. The team finished with 30 assists on 41 made baskets.

It's clear that there is still some cleaning up for the Warriors to do. But, there are also a lot of things clicking for this team early on.

Here are three takeaways from Game 1 of the season:

The backcourt finds its groove

Curry has a spotty history playing the Lakers at Staples Center. He can go hot or cold, but has mostly been the latter, averaging his second-lowest amount of points against any opponent (20.7 points) and the lowest field goal and 3-point shooting percentages against any opponent (42.5 percent and 35.2 percent, respectively). 

So when Curry started cold against the Lakers on Tuesday, it wasn't all that shocking. And luckily for him, he had a backcourt mate to help him out while he found his offense. 

Poole finished with 20 points -- 16 scored in the second half. 

Poole started out slow. He was chucking up shots from distance and missing ones at the rim. But when the Warriors came out of the locker room after halftime, Poole had a different energy. It was the same energy he possessed in the preseason. 

In the non-Curry minutes in the fourth, Poole put up eight points and the Warriors were plus-10 in those three-and-a-half minutes, forcing the Lakers to call two timeouts.

As soon as Curry checked back in, he knocked down a deep three and ended up with his eighth career triple-double -- and first in the regular season since January 2016 -- with 21 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. If that's a "quiet night" for Curry, the Warriors will gladly take it (minus the four turnovers). 

High IQ off the bench

After suffering major drop-offs in production during the bench minutes last season, the Warriors made some much-needed adjustments to the second unit. Not only did they add more depth, but in Iguodala and Bjelica, they added more IQ as well. 

Iguodala's IQ is something the Warriors were planning on tapping into when they signed him over the summer. Iguodala logged 11 minutes in the first half, in which he made two threes, organized the second unit, and was glue on defense -- including a play when he swiped the ball from Anthony Davis.

Iguodala used his quick hands to snatch the ball up after Bjelica poked it away from James. Bjelica's IQ wasn't expected to be this high. By that, I mean that when the Warriors signed him, they were wanting to add more shooting and floor-spacing. But through watching his game so far, his passing and understanding of the game are shining through. 

Midway through the second quarter, Bjelica took the ball coast to coast and finished with a euro step off the glass. His biggest play of the night came with just under three minutes left in the game. As Curry scrambled to find an open shot, he found Bjelica in the paint. Instead of going up for a contested layup, he kicked it out to Andrew Wiggins, who knocked down the dagger shot. Bjelica finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and one steal. 

The depth the Warriors have doesn't end with Iguodala and Bjelica. Golden State's bench outscored Los Angeles' 51-26, and the unit of Iguodala, Bjelica, Lee, Poole and Otto Porter Jr. showed strong flashes of what can be a very reliable supporting group moving forward. 

Lack of size still apparent 

The Lakers' size advantage on the Warriors poked its head out during their first preseason matchup, with the Los Angeles cleaning the offensive boards. On Wednesday, it reared its ugly head again, but far worse than the first time. 

Before we get into it, let's acknowledge that the Warriors ended up doing a nice job at forcing the Lakers to shoot more from the outside. But, even so, it's clear that combatting size could become an issue for Golden State, especially if they're having an off shooting night.

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The Lakers immediately looked to exploit the Warriors inside, feeding it to James, Davis and DeAndre Jordan. As the second unit checked in for Golden State, the attack was taken up a notch. 

With Juan Toscano-Anderson -- who is 6-foot-6 -- defending the 6-foot-10 Davis, Los Angeles fed their center on two consecutive plays that ended with Lakers buckets. 

Until James Wiseman returns, Kevon Looney is the Warriors' only "true" center. Golden State has always played well with a small lineup, but against certain teams, it will be their Achilles heel.

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