The Suns got off to a hot start, scoring the game's first eight points and leading 11-2. Golden State was slumping from the field, hitting only 3 of their first 15 shots -- trailing 28-23 after one quarter. Led by Markieff Morris, who had 11 in the first quarter, the Suns went up 40-28 midway through the first half.
Then the Warriors woke up. Golden State had showed no energy the night before against the Jazz, and was lethargic to start against the Suns on the same game of a back-to-back.
But Stephen Curry hit three three-pointers during a 21-9 run that saw the Warriors gain the lead. Klay Thompson hit a jumper to give the Warriors their first lead in nearly 60 minutes of game action, dating back to the game against the Bulls. And after Draymond Green hit a three to give Golden State a 52-49 lead, the Warriors were thereafter in control.
Leading 52-51 at the half, the Warriors ramped up the defense. The Suns were suffocated into shooting 36 percent for the game -- 31 percent in the second half.
Golden State, which had allowed 113 points in an overtime loss to the Bulls and 110 points to the lowly Jazz the night before, stifled the Suns into ten straight empty possessions to start the second half. In forcing four straight turnovers over the first six minutes of the half, the Warriors increased a one-point halftime lead to a 67-59 advantage.
Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, who were key in the Suns' victory over the Warriors at the start of the season, struggled tonight. Dragic went just 4-15 and was harassed into seven turnovers. Thomas had as many points as shots, going 4-13 from the field for 13 points.
The Warriors also focused on stopping Markieff Morris, who after scoring 13 in the first half was held to just four points in the second half. Ron Adams engineered a second-half strategy that the Warriors haven't tried a lot this season, sending double-teams at Morris repeatedly, with Harrison Barnes, Thompson, Iguodala, and Bogut all coming to limit his vision and contest his shots. It worked, as Morris missed eight of his final 11 attempts.
Golden State was led by Curry, Thompson, and off the bench, Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa -- who scored 31 of the Warriors' 33 bench points. Barbosa, in particular had a solid game, going 7-11 and providing a spurt when Curry and Thompson were resting. He was able to repeatedly cut past Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic for points in the paint and easy layups. (Marreese Speights received no playing time tonight, and he's been in Steve Kerr's doghouse the past few games.)
Curry and Thompson led the way with 25 and 22 points, respectively. In the fourth quarter, Curry led another run, this one a 15-2 spurt that put the game out of reach for good. During the run, the Warriors clamped down on the Suns defensively -- not allowing a single field goal for over four minutes -- and attacked the basket. The Warriors converted all four of their free throws and got open looks and easy baskets in the flow of the offense, pushing the lead from seven to 20 points.
Warrior Wonder: Stephen Curry
Curry led all scorers with 25 points and a plus-23 tonight. His 19 points on 4-8 from distance lifted the Warriors ahead at halftime, despite no one else shooting particularly well; and he fueled the aforementioned 15-2 run that put the game in hand for Golden State. Although he had 32 against the Jazz last night, no one else stepped up to be the second banana. Tonight, though, Klay Thompson had 22 points, and the bench played well. Curry also played excellent defense on Goran Dragic, forcing him into seven turnovers. This was a critical game for Curry, not only to end the losing streak but to hold his own against the talented Suns guards, who had forced him into ten turnovers the last time these two teams met in Phoenix. He showed up tonight, exhibiting why he is the MVP favorite so far.
Up Next: Tuesday @ Sacramento Kings
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will be in attendance on Tuesday to watch three All-Stars -- Curry, Thompson, and Silver's selection to replace the injured Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins -- go at it. The Warriors are looking for a season sweep over the Kings, and they've won every game against Sacramento so far by 18 points or more. Judging by those numbers, it'll likely be a rout. But as has been learned over the past few games -- a tight contest against Boston, the Chicago and Utah losses, and tonight needing a late spurt to beat the Suns -- the Warriors are not invincible. They need to keep their focus high, even when going against lower-level teams, to earn a victory. I think the Warriors show up defensively; watch for a dominant effort from start to finish.
Speaking of watching, everyone enjoy the Super Bowl! What are your predictions for the game? Prop bets? List them below in the comments.