BOSTON — Coach Steve Kerr is searching for a spark to jolt the Warriors forward after being stuck in neutral for the first three months of the season. He’s hoping a change he made Thursday could provide just that.

Golden State might boast one of the best starting units in the league this season, but Kerr decided to switch things up Thursday, opting to go small against the Boston Celtics and start Jordan Poole instead of Kevon Looney.

“Just wanted to open up the floor, give us a little different look,” Kerr said of his decision after the Warriors lost 121-118 in overtime. “We’re past the halfway point and we’re .500, like, let’s try something different.”

The results in the first game were a mixed bag, as the starting lineup finished with a plus-minus rating of minus-1.

That grouping of Poole, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green has serious offensive firepower. Playing them together allows the Warriors to push the pace and spread the floor.

From an individual standpoint, Poole benefits most from the move. The 23-year-old, who will get a mega pay raise after this season when his extension kicks in, plays more aggressively as a starter than a reserve. He’s averaged 26.7 points in 23 games he’s started this season compared to 15.2 points in the 22 he came off the bench.

On Thursday night, Poole scored nine first-quarter points and finished the night with 24, his 27th game this season with 20 or more points.

“It gives us a bit more explosiveness, being able to kind of space the floor, get out and run the transition,” Poole said of the fresh starting lineup. “Everybody knows that unit is pretty dangerous together.”

Defensively, however, that unit can be a bit of a liability. Several examples of that showed in the fourth quarter when the Warriors fumbled their lead in the final minute of regulation. Poole was part of a defensive gaffe that led to Jaylen Brown being wide open to knock down a game-tying 3 and force overtime.

Despite the costly error, Poole overall had one of his better defensive showings of the season. He brought more energy to that side of the ball, which is what the Warriors will continue to ask of him if they keep this lineup. Poole recorded three steals and a team-high six deflections.

“Jordan was fantastic,” Kerr said. It’s a “tough matchup against this team, they’ve got so many big wings. And so, for us to start that smaller group, Jordan has to hold up and he did, I thought his defense was excellent for much of the game.”

Curry, Poole and Thompson said it’s on all the guards to step up on defense when they play small like that, especially when it comes to going after rebounds. The Warriors lost the battle of the boards Thursday, 63-47.

“We got to be better at rebounding,” Curry said. “Knowing that if we give up size, we’ve got to be more physical, prepare to rebound, us guards helping out.

“We can force tough shots and whatnot but we got to try to keep it to one-shot possession because then you’re able to use our speed in transition.”


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