Preview/Game Thread #25: Golden State Warriors Vs. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns (12-15) at Golden State Warriors (10-14)

TV: CSN Bay Area / Radio: KNBR 680

Blog Buddy: Bright Side of the Sun

Adding to Sleepy Freud's glass half-full/half-empty analysis after the Golden State Warriors' 106-97 win over the Houston Rockets last night, it's hard to avoid just how far they are from the playoffs.

In fact, for the pre-season cynics among us it's somewhat jarring: yes, the Warriors are only the 13th seed in the Western Conference, but they're also part of a pack of teams still in playoff contention and only 4 games out of the 5th seed as of today.

If you really want to look at the Warriors' glass as half full - or perhaps overflowing with optimism to make the metaphor more accurate - then tonight's game and the remainder of this string of Western Conference games over the next week are important for their so-called playoff chances.

But forgive me if I see things as half-empty and would prefer to look ahead toward a future of sustainable success. And that makes rookie Klay Thompson's recent success significant.

As San Francisco Chronicle reporter Bruce Jenkins described Saturday, Thompson is easily lost in a rookie class full of potential stars. And for those wondering what could've been with Linsanity in the Bay Area, it's easy to be left unsatisfied by but what Thompson is doing in the Warriors' backcourt right now.

However, that Thompson is the most efficient rookie scorer, as Sleepy Freud points out - and particularly strong as a spot-up shooter - is something for Warriors fans to embrace, even in a backcourt that is already full of scoring punch from its starters. And recently, Thompson has found his three point shooting touch in particular: over the last four games, he's shot 12-for-16 (75%) from beyond the arc.

If you've already tired of the up and down performances of this season and are wary of what the Warriors will do in a back-to-back situation, then keeping an eye on Thompson's continued development is worth paying attention to tonight. If Thompson keeps up this shooting pace (49.3% 3-point percentage), it would be the best rookie three point shooting performance since the line was moved back for the 1997-98 season. Even if he doesn't maintain the pace he's kept up over the past four games, he's likely to achieve something that others haven't.

What's been particularly impressive in his recent games is that he's been hitting shots against defenses that are relatively good at defending the three point line: Houston allows the third-lowest three point percentage in the league and the Sacramento Kings (who Thompson shot 4-for-4 from deep against) are 9th, albeit far worse as a defense overall. No matter what you thought about Thompson before, his shooting is looking less and less flukish.

Getting back to tonight's game specifically, the Suns are a relatively poor team at defending the three point line, which could be something that a more confident and efficient Thompson - as well as Dorell Wright, who has also found his touch since that first meeting - could be used to help exploit and get a more positive outcome than the Warriors got the first time around. Monta Ellis had 11 assists in typical fashion against the Suns the first time and with three point shooters to kick to and playing at home, Thompson's emergence could be significant in tonight's game.

None of that is even to mention David Lee, who was out sick in the first meeting with the Suns - Lee has been on a tear statistically lately as you can see from the boxscores but equally impressive for those that pay attention to plus/minus is that he's been a positive in 5 of the last 6 games in which the Warriors have won 4 of 6.

Ultimately, the last few games have given everyone something to cheer about, except maybe those who are rooting for a lottery pick: Thompson's performances lately are an encouraging sign for the future while those that would rather focus on the positives in the present can cheer on a team that seems to be finding some sort of rhythm.

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