Preview: Warriors Take On Suns

It's been all Steph Curry recently for Golden State. Can anyone else step up? - Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

Looking to build off another comeback win, this time against the Bulls, the Warriors travel to Phoenix to face the Suns.

Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

TV: CSN Bay Area // Radio: KNBR 680

Buddy blog: Bright Side Of The Sun

Can the Suns make their unbelievable, shocking, stunning season result in a playoff spot?

Can the Warriors finally play a string of games consistent with preseason expectations, and on the road against current playoff teams to boot?

While this is just a February game, before the trading deadline, before the All-Star Break, this game could go a long way towards answering those questions and affecting the outcomes of both teams come April.

I believe we were asking these same types of questions when the Warriors last visited Phoenix, when the Dubs were playing much like they are currently, coming out flat to start games, falling behind by a lot to teams they should be destroying, and losing very winnable games. While Golden State did beat the Bulls Thursday night by 15, they came out flat once again, at home, falling behind by 16 in the first half to a team under .500.

The previous Suns-Warriors game in Phoenix was evident of the Dubs' failure to throw the first punch, as Golden State fell behind by 13 in the first half, rallied to make a close one of it in the fourth quarter, only to fall just short at the end, losing 106-102.

Mark Jackson lashed out at his team through the media after that game, saying that he perceived "the guys in the suits and ties want it more than the guys in uniform."

The Warrior are playing for the second game in a row without their starting big men, as David Lee and Andrew Bogut will miss tonight's game with a coalition of shoulder and leg injuries.

Stephen Curry has found his stroke over the past ten games, averaging 30 points on 53% shooting from the field and 48% shooting from three-point land. He's had to carry the Warriors by himself over these last few nights, as Lee and Bogut have been hurt; Klay Thompson's been in a slump; Andre Iguodala has been nonexistent on offense since returning from his hamstring injury; and Harrison Barnes hasn't contributed anything on offense basically the whole season.

Hopefully the comeback win against the Bulls was a turning point for the Warriors, to change their starts and come out throwing haymakers like they were doing in the beginning of the season.

Despite the recent flat starts and losing five of their past eight home games, the Warriors have overtaken the Suns by a half-game in the playoff race. Currently, the Warriors are 30-20 - for the second year in a row - and sixth in the West, three-and-a-half games behind the Pacific-leading Clippers and three behind the fifth-seeded Rockets. The Suns sit at 29-20, seventh in the Western Conference, but Dallas and Memphis have surged after slow starts and both are leaping up the rungs of the playoff ladder.

This game could go a long way, depending obviously on health and moves made at the deadline, in establishing the seeding and match-ups in the Western Conference playoffs. Golden State needs to come out strong in order to fortify the statement that they are a contender to be reckoned with. With just four games before the All-Star break, it's imperative Golden State builds some momentum heading into the last 30-plus games of the regular season.

Sorkin's Four Keys to a Warriors Win

  • Strong Start. The Warriors can't afford to come out flat against the Thunder and Clippers; they should work on getting out to a fast start on the road against playoff teams. It's important the Dubs make a statement early on.
  • Keep Splashing. Last game marked Klay Thompson's first time in seven games he shot above 50% from the field. When he's on track, the Warriors always have a good shot at winning.
  • An Aggressive Barnes. Yes, Harrison Barnes was named to the Dunk Contest. No, he hasn't shown a willingness to put his head down and attack the basket this season. In the second half of the year, Barnes needs to play like he did in the playoffs: Confident, aggressive, attacking the rim. With David Lee and Bogut out, Barnes will get minutes. He has to produce.
  • Defense, Defense, Defense. The Warriors offense has done them in more often than their defense this season (when has that ever been the case?) and it's important the Warriors show up defensively on the road. Defense always keeps a team in the game, and the Warriors need to slow the Suns' sixth-ranked transition attack.
Predictions:
  • Curry with 32, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds
  • Barnes with 22 points
  • Warriors 105, Phoenix 93

All statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com/statistics unless stated otherwise.

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