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Cristiano Ronaldo scores another hat-trick to boost United's top four hopes

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second Premier League hat-trick in three games to guide Manchester United to a 3-2 win over Norwich at Old Trafford on Saturday, boosting the club's bid to qualify for the Champions League. (Author: Gardener)

Cristiano RonaldoManchester United's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his third goal against Norwich. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second Premier League hat-trick in three games to guide Manchester United to a 3-2 win over Norwich at Old Trafford on Saturday, boosting the club's bid to qualify for the Champions League. Discussion over the Portuguese icon's influence at United has grown in recent weeks, with the Reds - 20 points behind rivals Manchester City - increasingly expecting to miss out on a top-four result that will next earn them a spot in the United Champions League would secure season. But in a near-perfect weekend for Ronaldo and United, top-four contenders Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur both suffered defeat as United moved up to fifth with six games to go. After scoring his 806th career goal en route to a hat-trick against Spurs in March, Ronaldo endured a torrid afternoon at Everton in his next league game following defeat and an incident involving a young fan's mobile phone. His second goal of the first half, a typical header from an Alex Telles corner, seemed to have put United in the driver's seat, but two quick goals either side of the half from Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki again exposed United's defensive weaknesses . In many ways, the winner was the unmistakable Ronaldo - a stunning free-kick to score a hat-trick and ensure his team a crucial victory. And yet the fact that it was scored from a free-kick is distinctly un-Ronaldo-esque in recent years. Despite a career highlight with free-kick goals, Ronaldo has not scored a direct goal for Portugal since September 2020. But the 37-year-old rolled back the years against Norwich, blasting a devastating shot past Tim Krul to take his first free-kick since returning to United in the most crucial of circumstances. With 15 Premier League goals this season, he is only behind Liverpool's Mo Salah (20) and Tottenham's Son Heung-Min (17) in the top scorers list. No other United team-mate has surpassed double figures in the league, with team-mate and compatriot Bruno Fernandes being the club's second-highest with nine goals.

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'Ronaldo's value for Man Utd remains immense'

Cristiano Ronaldo is proving his worth for Manchester United after scoring a hat-trick against Norwich City, writes Simon Stone. (Author: Gardener)

RonaldoIs Cristiano Ronaldo the cause or the solution to Manchester United's woes? It is the 16th consecutive season that Ronaldo has scored 20 or more club goals in all competitions, it was his 60th career treble and he has scored 12 more goals than any other United player this season. Stats that say the 37-year-old is an obstacle is nonsense, isn't it? "I told my players at half-time that if they scored 20 goals and gave me 15 assists, they wouldn't have to push as hard," he said. In other words, as long as Ronaldo delivers, United should stick with him. And right now his performance at Old Trafford is delivering quite a bit of power. Along with his most recent hat-trick against Tottenham two games ago, Ronaldo is the only player to score for United in a Premier League game in which he was involved since the win at Leeds on February 20. His value to this United side remains immense and if Erik ten Hag takes over as expected, some serious talks will need to be had about whether Ronaldo will remain at Old Trafford for the final year of his contract. "It's not my decision in the end," said interim university boss Ralf Rangnick. "Cristiano has one year left on his contract. But he showed against Tottenham and today that he can make the difference in games like this. It's no coincidence that he has the best shots record of any player in history." But Rangnick was focused on the game itself - and he gave a scathing assessment.He was particularly scathing about his side's defensive physicality, saying: "No other side in the league" concede the kind of goals that Kieran Dowell and Teemu Puuki score for Norwich And when asked to explain his dejected assessment of United's top four chances as defeats to Tottenham and Arsenal mean they are now just three points behind, Rangnick pointed to next week's encounter with Liverpool , who reached the FA Cup final after beating Manchester City 3-2 on Saturday: "Everyone saw today's game and everyone knows what kind of team they are against we play on Tuesday," he said. "They just beat Man City, they're in the cup final and they might have a chance to win four trophies this season. "If we play like we did today, it will be very difficult to get a point at all. * Our Manchester United coverage is bigger and better than ever - here's everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss a moment * All United - jump straight to the best content

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'Ronaldo's value for Man Utd remains immense'

Cristiano Ronaldo is proving his worth for Manchester United after scoring a hat-trick against Norwich City, writes Simon Stone. (Author: Gardener)

RonaldoIs Cristiano Ronaldo the cause or the solution to Manchester United's woes? It is the 16th consecutive season that Ronaldo has scored 20 or more club goals in all competitions, it was his 60th career treble and he has scored 12 more goals than any other United player this season. Stats that say the 37-year-old is an obstacle is nonsense, isn't it? "I told my players at half-time that if they scored 20 goals and gave me 15 assists, they wouldn't have to push as hard," he said. In other words, as long as Ronaldo delivers, United should stick with him. And right now his performance at Old Trafford is delivering quite a bit of power. Along with his most recent hat-trick against Tottenham two games ago, Ronaldo is the only player to score for United in a Premier League game in which he was involved since the win at Leeds on February 20. His value to this United side remains immense and if Erik ten Hag takes over as expected, some serious talks will need to be had about whether Ronaldo will remain at Old Trafford for the final year of his contract. "It's not my decision in the end," said interim university boss Ralf Rangnick. "Cristiano has one year left on his contract. But he showed against Tottenham and today that he can make the difference in games like this. It's no coincidence that he has the best shots record of any player in history." But Rangnick was focused on the game itself - and he gave a scathing assessment.He was particularly scathing about his side's defensive physicality, saying: "No other side in the league" concede the kind of goals that Kieran Dowell and Teemu Puuki score for Norwich And when asked to explain his dejected assessment of United's top four chances as defeats to Tottenham and Arsenal mean they are now just three points behind, Rangnick pointed to next week's encounter with Liverpool , who reached the FA Cup final after beating Manchester City 3-2 on Saturday: "Everyone saw today's game and everyone knows what kind of team they are against we play on Tuesday," he said. "They just beat Man City, they're in the cup final and they might have a chance to win four trophies this season. "If we play like we did today, it will be very difficult to get a point at all. * Our Manchester United coverage is bigger and better than ever - here's everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss a moment * All United - jump straight to the best content

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'Ronaldo's value for Man Utd remains immense'

Cristiano Ronaldo is proving his worth for Manchester United after scoring a hat-trick against Norwich City, writes Simon Stone. (Author: Gardener)

RonaldoIs Cristiano Ronaldo the cause or the solution to Manchester United's woes? It is the 16th consecutive season that Ronaldo has scored 20 or more club goals in all competitions, it was his 60th career treble and he has scored 12 more goals than any other United player this season. Stats that say the 37-year-old is an obstacle is nonsense, isn't it? "I told my players at half-time that if they scored 20 goals and gave me 15 assists, they wouldn't have to push as hard," he said. In other words, as long as Ronaldo delivers, United should stick with him. And right now his performance at Old Trafford is delivering quite a bit of power. Along with his most recent hat-trick against Tottenham two games ago, Ronaldo is the only player to score for United in a Premier League game in which he was involved since the win at Leeds on February 20. His value to this United side remains immense and if Erik ten Hag takes over as expected, some serious talks will need to be had about whether Ronaldo will remain at Old Trafford for the final year of his contract. "It's not my decision in the end," said interim university boss Ralf Rangnick. "Cristiano has one year left on his contract. But he showed against Tottenham and today that he can make the difference in games like this. It's no coincidence that he has the best shots record of any player in history." But Rangnick was focused on the game itself - and he gave a scathing assessment.He was particularly scathing about his side's defensive physicality, saying: "No other side in the league" concede the kind of goals that Kieran Dowell and Teemu Puuki score for Norwich And when asked to explain his dejected assessment of United's top four chances as defeats to Tottenham and Arsenal mean they are now just three points behind, Rangnick pointed to next week's encounter with Liverpool , who reached the FA Cup final after beating Manchester City 3-2 on Saturday: "Everyone saw today's game and everyone knows what kind of team they are against we play on Tuesday," he said. "They just beat Man City, they're in the cup final and they might have a chance to win four trophies this season. "If we play like we did today, it will be very difficult to get a point at all. * Our Manchester United coverage is bigger and better than ever - here's everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss a moment * All United - jump straight to the best content

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Ronaldo hat-trick secures Man Utd win over Norwich

Cristiano Ronaldo scores a stunning hat-trick as Manchester United boost their top-four hopes with a thrilling win over Norwich. (Author: Gardener)

NorwichLast updated on .From the Premier League section Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second hat-trick in three Premier League games to boost Manchester United's hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League at the expense of relegation-threatened Norwich at Old Trafford. However, appalling defense from the hosts on either side of the break allowed Norwich to equalize through Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki and for a while it looked like Dean Smith's side would be the more likely winners. But after Ralf Rangnick gave up his bold tactic of playing without a recognized ball winner in midfield and replaced Paul Pogba with Juan Mata, Ronaldo fired a free-kick from the inside of the goal with 14 minutes to go and secured victory. The 37-year-old has now scored 15 Premier League goals this season and sits behind only Mohamed Salah and Son Hueng-min in the standings. He has also scored 99 career goals in the Premier League. United can level on points with fourth-placed Spurs if they win at Liverpool on Tuesday. For Norwich, the result was a major blow to their faint hopes of avoiding the fall. The Canaries are now seven points behind fourth-bottom Everton after playing two more games and with just six games left to do something about it. It's an unanswered question that keeps getting asked: is Ronaldo the cause of United's problems or the solution? Ben Gibson was disowned in his own penalty area as Norwich tried to move the ball forward from a goal kick allowing Anthony Elanga to find Ronaldo who scored the first finish. Ronaldo's second header was one of the supreme headers he has produced so many times over the years, climbing the highest to reach Alex Telles' corner and pass Tim Krul. Under pressure and all eyes on him, Ronaldo puffed out his chest after Elanga was fouled on the edge of the area, ran up and belted his shot into the net from inside a post. The celebration at the final whistle must have felt like a stab in the heart for Norwich boss Smith. They also masked some pretty shocking defenses from the hosts, the sort of thing that's been seen all too often over the years and has left many of the club's fans in such a state of anger - some even missing out on the start of the game being part a pre-game protest. Pukki was alone when he gained possession on the right side of the box, then selected Dowell, who was also completely unmarked as he slid the ball past David de Gea from six yards out. Pukki was similarly alone seven minutes after the restart as he leveled the visitors. At this point, Smith must have thought a famous win was on the horizon. Ronaldo had other ideas. * Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever - here's everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss a moment

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David De Gea worried about Manchester United's form despite 'massive' win over Norwich

The Red Devils conceded a two-goal lead before Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat-trick to secure the points. (Author: Gardener)

David De GeaDavid De Gea's delight at Manchester United's "massive" win in the Champions League qualifying race came with a warning they are still not doing well enough to finish in the top four. But the stars were aligned on Saturday as Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick spared United's blush to secure a 3-2 win over the spirited Norwich while top-four rivals Tottenham and Arsenal suffered shock defeats. Those results have breathed new life into the Red Devils' hopes but De Gea is struggling after a poor performance against the league's worst side and Tuesday's trip to title-chasing Liverpool. "We were 2-0 up against Norwich so we mustn't lose control of the game. "We started wasting chances, they score at the end of the first half, it's always difficult, but I think we need to control the games more, especially at home against Norwich. But I think they made a great game. “In the end we fight to the end, good spirit from the team and three great goals from Cristiano. We're still fighting for the top four but we definitely need to keep improving because I think it's not enough if we keep playing like this.” United had looked into speed control after Ronaldo amid protests against the family Glazer had scored two goals in the first half, only for Kieran Dowell to pull one back just before halftime. Teemu Pukki stunned Old Trafford by leveling just after the restart and De Gea fended off Milot Rashica with a save before Ronaldo fired in a free-kick in a 3-2 win. "This is the Premier League, it's not easy," said De Gea. "Every game is tough. “You see against Norwich today, bottom of the table, but they fight, they almost get points here. "It's good for us when (our top four rivals) lose points but like I said we need to keep improving, just focus on ourselves and win to the last game." Liverpool are buoyed by their 3-2 win FA Cup semi-final win over Premier League leaders Manchester City and won 5-0 in the second leg at Old Trafford in October. "It's going to be a tough game for sure," De Gea told MUTV. "It's always special to play against Liverpool, even away. It's great to be there and play. We're going to go there and hopefully give ourselves the confidence today to go on Tuesday and play well, try to win the game and hopefully get the points for Manchester. As United look to continue to bolster their top-four chances, Norwich's hopes of beating the drop are rapidly fading. Dean Smith's side are seven points adrift of safety but Dowell believes they can draw confidence from their performance at Old Trafford. "I thought we showed a lot of spirit when we went down 2-0 to get back in the game 2-2 and then Ronaldo took a free-kick in the top corner," he told the club's website. “It's quite impressive to come to Old Trafford and score two goals and it's more difficult to score three and four goals to win the game so it's just one of those. This performance should give us confidence going to Newcastle."

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Why Jordan Poole's 30-point NBA playoff debut didn't surprise Warriors

Jordan Poole broke out with 30 points on his playoff debut, and that's what the Warriors are expecting of him now. (Author: Gardener)

Jordan Poole'sWhy JP's 30-point playoff debut for Warriors wasn't surprising originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea SAN FRANCISCO — Jordan Poole was featured as the Warriors' starting point guard in place of Steph Curry for Game 1 of the Warriors' first-round playoff series with the Denver Nuggets certainly came as a surprise. But his 30-point performance Saturday night in the Warriors' 123-107 blowout win? "We expected that," said Steve Kerr after the win. He works on the preparation every day. Poole's 30 points ties with Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond for the second-highest scoring by a warrior in a playoff debut. Poole became the 35th player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in a playoff debut. However, his five 3-pointers is a new Warriors record for a player's first postseason game. Nothing compares to the NBA playoffs, but Poole is by no means new to the big stage. He was a member of the 2017 Dick's National High School winning team at La Lumiere School in Indiana and played the hero on the national stage when his 3-pointer buzzer sent the Wolverines to the Sweet 16 as a freshman in Michigan. Kerr also believes Poole's performances in two games last season, which don't count towards his regular-season or playoff stats, helped set the stage for this moment. In the Warriors' first play-in tournament loss last season, Poole scored 10 points against the Los Angeles Lakers and lost 19 points in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that ended Golden State's season. Kerr insisted Saturday night that while those two games weren't the major turning points in Poole's career, they were just another indication he'll be ready for whatever comes his way. "I felt pretty prepared," Poole said of his playoff debut. "The coaching staff did a really good job of setting the game plan, setting it up, and then we did a really good job as a team just going out there and executing it." During the first quarter, Poole patiently picked his spots , figured out how the Nuggets would protect him, and tried to play as best he could on the Warriors offense. He scored just three points and made his lone shot attempt - a 3-point try - in little more than six minutes before Curry came into play for the first time. The Warriors were down one after the first frame, which meant one thing and one thing only: it was time to put the Poole Party in the playoffs. Warriors fans have seen it over and over again. However, the playoffs may produce a different beast in some players, and Poole clearly belongs in that group. He exploded early for nine straight points and 14 total for the second quarter. By halftime, Poole had 17 points and not missed a single shot. The only miss for the NBA leader in free throw percentage came off the line. The stage was set, Poole answered the call and his 13 second-half points were just the icing on the cake. In Curry's absence while recovering from a sprained left foot last month, Poole made his best Steph impression, averaging 25.8 points in the Warriors' last 12 regular-season games. And that's exactly what the Warriors now expect from him. "It's just how he's played the last two months of the season and everything he's done to prepare for this moment," Curry said. Once Poole caught fire, there was no putting it out. From his layup package to his pull-up 3-pointers and step-back jumpers, this is what we've come to expect from the 22-year-old. Klay Thompson, who was Poole's backcourt mate and scored 19 points in his first playoff game since torn his cruciate ligament in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, has long since turned his back on Poole. From the moment the Warriors drafted Poole near the end of the first round in 2019, Thompson saw the potential. When Poole was relegated to the G League in each of his first two seasons, Klay remained just as confident in him. Fighting back from two heartbreaking leg injuries, he saw that Poole always worked hard, no matter how much playing time he was given. "His work ethic," Thompson said matter-of-factly when asked why he always knew Poole could be a star. “A lot of guys come into the NBA and are happy, but Jordan has been in the gym from day one. He came back at night after practice.” He went to the G League in his rookie year and got better. But his work ethic will make him a star.” Poole now finds himself at the heart of a team with championship pedigree. They are all here, bringing constant reminders of the past and what it takes to win. Poole will be a big part of the future but that can wait. It's the ultimate vote of confidence from a handful of all-time greats that seemed so obvious to jump-start that playoff run. "There's no better feeling than having the guys who've already had the fight behind them," Poole said. You know that when you make mistakes you have these guys who pick you up and there's no better Feeling than that. "I'm just grateful to be out there with these guys on the court and trying to learn as much as I can so I can keep putting our team in positions to win who should go to the am." Most Improved Players in the NBA Poole hasn't surprised anyone in a long time e That's what Warriors expect of him, and it's nice that he feels the same way.

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Golden State's unique, winning blend of old and new is on display in all its glory in Game 1

From Oracle to Chase Center, from Steph Curry to Jordan Poole, the Warriors are bridging the gap (Author: Gardener)

Golden State'sSAN FRANCISCO — After another Golden State Warriors trademark in the third quarter, Stephen Curry walked toward the stands and desperately gestured for the home fans to turn up the volume. From the beginning of the first game of the Warriors' first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, the shyness of the crowd at the very first playoff game at the Chase Center was more than noticeable, especially compared to the organization's earlier, sacred building across the Bay Bridge - the one , which earned the nickname "Roaracle" for its piercing, eardrum-bursting noise. Let's get wild - these are the warriors. "It was almost because the lead was so big you lose the jitters of the moment and that's where you remember this is a playoff game. Every possession of the ball is important," said Curry after the game. "I started pointing at the scoreboard and trying to get every hype because I knew you have to build on that momentum in every game to get that home field advantage." The sell-out crowd responded in kind, slowly reaching a crescendo before descending into the haunting, spine-tingling chant of "Waaaaaarrrrriiiioooooorrrrrs." Curry stood halfway, hands on knees, nodding his head in agreement. It was a little taste of the Warriors' past success making its way into the new era, much like the Curry 6 sneakers Steph wore, a tribute to the building where he became a basketball legend and " passed the torch". into his new environment. "But you should know that both trees are important." In many ways, in Saturday night's 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors demonstrated how successfully they've blended the old with the new - a rare formula for continued success in the grueling NBA. Let's start with the old one. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney played in the same game for the first time since the 2019 final almost three years ago. The quintet has more titles than an 18th-century British nobleman, and all their skills and quirks were shown in the Game 1 win. Green plays inscrutable tenacious defense against Nikola Jokic, a Superstar six inches taller than him. Looney racks up rebounds and hits inside despite not being able to jump over an iPad. And then there's Curry, who started cold off the field in 22 minutes on his way to 16 points in 5-for-13 shooting but finished characteristically of the game up 17. "So special," Thompson said, getting back on the ground with the old guard. "Something I don't take for granted is just being able to play playoff basketball. The classic mainstay performance was spurred on by the electricity of playoff freshman Jordan Poole, who stunned to 30 points in 9-on-13 shooting. including 5 out of 7 from the 3 point range. The 30 points brought Mitch Richmond for the highest total of any Warrior in his playoff debut other than Wilt Chamberlain — talk about bridging generations. Poole's development has been on view since the second half of last season and has reached new heights in the last month and a half, but players with better resumes have melted to the point of dissolution under the brightest lights. Poole passed his test with flying colours, as he's done since last postseason's play-in games and commended his trusted veterans for making the smooth transition to playoff basketball, "There's no better feeling than having the guys behind who've already been through the fight . They went through it at the highest level," Poole said after the game. “You know that when you make mistakes you have these guys to pick you up. Poole wasn't the only new face to make an impression, either. Gary Payton II had five points, three rebounds, two assists and a monster block while playing his usual brand of smothering defense. Nemanja Bjelica was as aggressive offensively as he has been all season, scoring eight points in 15 minutes. Otto Porter Jr. provided four points and four assists in 25 minutes and tied Green for best plus-minus on the team at plus-21. Then, for a brief moment, we got a glimpse of the next green wave of contributors. With play in the fourth quarter, rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody checked in to get their playoff feet wet. Both played important roles at various points during the regular season, and they'll likely see action in big playoff moments at some point -- maybe as early as this series. It's incredibly difficult to win in the NBA, even when you have the best players in the world on your payroll. The Warriors know this as well as anyone, and have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons due to injury woes and roster changes. The San Antonio Spurs were able to close the gap thanks to a legendary coach, the grace with which their Big Three aged and the powerful arrival of Kawhi Leonard. The Warriors hope they'll eventually become synonymous with Spurs when it comes to franchises that embody undying success, but they're careful not to get lost in daydreams. Right now, they don't allow themselves to think about the next round of the playoffs, let alone a championship. The only thing the Warriors are thinking about is Monday's second game against Denver. "For the guys that have been there and understand what that journey is like at this stage of the season and the playoff chase, yes you're starting to think about what's next. That's because we were there and we know,” Curry said after the game.

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22 of the funniest tweets about dogs and cats this week (April 2-8)

"I just noticed that cats just walk around OUR house naked. So disrespectful.” (Author: Gardener)

this weekWoof - it was another long week. If you feel like you've been working like a dog, we offer you the internet equivalent of a big pile of catnip: hilarious tweets about pets. Each week at HuffPost, we scour Twitter to find the funniest posts about our furballs being complete fools. My boyfriend got a kitten two weeks ago and he told my toddler about it and for two weeks he's been saying "Meet Rocky? We went to Rocky's today and he carried a treat in his hand the entire drive and said "Rocky is gonna love this" and guess what Rocky was DOING. This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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The Warriors' Game 1 win was a warning to the NBA

It's only one game, but the Warriors' incredible performance against Denver answered some big questions. (Author: Gardener)

NBAThe Warriors' start to the 2022 playoffs was, in a word, perfect. What else could you call a rollicking 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets in which no fewer than six Golden State players had ten perfect performances? Across the board, the Dubs exuded greatness on Saturday night, taking a 1-0 lead in their first-round match. It was the kind of performance that makes it impossible not to think big when it comes to post-season Golden State chances. If Saturday was a harbinger of what's to come, they could well make it to summer. Now it's important to note that Denver is a cheap matchup for Golden State. After all, the Nuggets are brave and talented. Also, we all know that getting high off your own stash is never a good idea. We had no idea what to expect from the Warriors team in Game 1. This team went into the postseason with big questions. It certainly seemed like Saturday's game would provide emphatic answers. There's no question that Jordan Poole is built for the playoffs. You can't fake what he did in Game 1. The 22-year-old was, quite simply put, the best player on the pitch on Saturday, scoring 30 points with an absurd 88.5 effective field goal average. His confidence and swagger was the North Star of the dubs early in a contest that took Golden State approximately 20 minutes of gameplay to compose. The Dubs' small-ball lineup, featuring Poole, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the integral and effective Andrew Wiggins, couldn't have been better as they came into play for the final four-plus minutes of the second quarter. My goodness was this lineup dangerous. The Pour Four with a green running dot? Denver has no chance of defending it. I'm not sure there's a team in the NBA that can do that. Saturday was the kind of performance from a lineup you can't help but extrapolate beyond this round, the next and who knows, even the Western Conference Finals. Alongside Poole, who created his own gravity, and Wiggins, who perfectly embodied the role of old Harrison Barnes on both sides of the court, Steph, Klay and Dray were magical in Game 1. Yes, the veteran triumvirate may have only played 11 minutes together since the 2019 NBA Finals, but you don't win 77 playoff games together without some chemistry. Despite playing just 22 minutes in Curry's first game since injuring his left foot a month ago, the dubs' big three made it clear that together they still play on a different level than anyone else in the league. Green was a force on both sides. His defense against possible back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic was incredible - the Nuggets' big man shot 3 of 12 from the floor with Green as his main defender, according to ESPN. His screens, particularly in the closing minutes of the first half when the Warriors' aforementioned small-ball lineup was first forming, provided open look after look. When Green delivers a perfect 10 game like he did on Saturday, he controls the competition. And no one beats the Warriors when Green is at that level. Thompson also put in a 10 out of 10 performance. Was it a terribly productive game from Thompson? no But his impact on the game felt bigger than his box score numbers. Curry didn't have a 10-of-10 game, but he found his shot late. After missing a month, it only took him about 15 minutes to find his game. What does it mean for the Nuggets if Curry can't be as good (for understandable reasons) and the Warriors still run their opponents off? What does this mean for the Warriors' other Western Conference rivals, the Grizzlies and Suns? Let's take a moment here to appreciate Wiggins' perfect 10 game, who had nine rebounds and 16 points and played his new role perfectly. In order for the Warriors to play small ball effectively -- especially with Poole defensively overwhelming as part of the five -- a wing like Wiggins needs to play above his weight on the defensive end. Barnes was incredible at slipping from three to four during the Warriors' first title run. Wiggins played a no-fanfare game, but he was strong and controlled at both ends of the floor. He was Barnes with a little more clout. After eight years of his career, it feels like he's finally found the role he was created for. As always with Wiggins, we'll see if the good times last. But Saturday's performance was deeply encouraging. The Warriors' bench also had some excellent performances in Game 1. The Serbian stretch center could keep up with all of Jokic's dance moves, and by keeping the Nuggets' big man in space when the Warriors had the ball, tired him out and created elite offensive opportunities. Many of those opportunities were seized by Andre Iguodala, who on Saturday revealed he's spent the entire regular season in the sandbag to save his veteran joints for the real joint - the postseason. Iguodala was the ultimate operator in his 13 minutes of Game 1, dishing out four assists in that limited time and taking control of the game from Green when he was on the bench. Having such a veteran presence off the bench comes almost gratuitously. In total, that's six players who gave a performance in Game 1 where no fault can be found. Will this achievement continue in Game 2 and beyond? But the Warriors don't need that kind of performance every night to win. Golden State entered this postseason as a mystery team. Yes, they were implied to have a high cap, but perhaps that was just the benefit of the doubt being made available to a championship core. But that benefit of the doubt is no longer afforded. It was taken over by the Warriors in Game 1. This is a team that could play well in the coming months.

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