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Recap: Warriors cool off the Suns in Phoenix

The Warriors took care of the Suns tonight behind dominating defense, Splash Brothers offense, and Steph Curry adding to his MVP case

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Entering tonight's game in Phoenix between the Suns and the Warriors, Golden State were looking at some good news and bad news. The good news? Golden State is 10-3 on the season on the back end of back-to-backs, and with the afternoon game on Sunday there was some extra time to rest before the game. The bad news? The Warriors have historically had a tough time winning in Phoenix, losing 70 of the last 82 games there (only winning three of their last sixteen matchups). This includes an early season let-down game, where turnovers and bad shooting in the second half lead to a trademark Suns run that left Golden State out of gas. More good news? The Warriors entered tonight as the #1 scoring team in the league. The bad news? Phoenix sits close behind at #3 in league, making it more than safe to take the "over" if you were in a betting mood.

After the great win against the Clippers on Sunday, would Golden State continue the momentum? Or would Phoenix get them while they were slow in the step and take advantage of the schedule to sneak out a win? We break down the game here:

First Quarter

Warriors showed great defense to start the first, using on the ball defense and rim protection to force bad shots and clear rebounds. They shot out to an early 14-6 lead, quieting the home Phoenix crowd. Warriors began the game 3-5 but then went 4 of 12 as the game started to become a bit sloppy toward the end of the quarter. Both teams would finish the quarter shooting 39% as it started to feel like the team to get right first was going to pull away wit this one. The Warriors would finish the first with a six-point lead on a pretty Curry coast-to-coast layup.

Second Quarter

The second unit without Klay or Curry looked disjointed and messy, proving to Steve Kerr that you have to limit your minutes with both weapons off the floor. Once Thompson entered the game again, the Warriors again started pushing the ball and finally took control. As the Suns had no rim protection, Klay and Livingston were able to get to the basket with little concern. The Suns would climb back into the game behind the pesky scoring of Brandon Knight (pre-injury) and Gerald Green. Turnovers and too many jump shots lead to the Suns finally finding their stride, and capitalizing on their own fast break to even the score entering the half.

Third Quarter

It was a fantastic sight to see Bogut back on the floor to start the third, and the starting five look to take the momentum back. Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett begged for any Warrior not named Curry or Klay to contribute on the offensive end. Harrison Barnes and Green answered the call early to give a little life. They key would be Warriors defense that would build the lead throughout the third, pacing the team with stops until Steph and Draymond would finally find their shot. It wouldn't be a quick flurry of points, but more of a slow build that would push the advantage back to double digits. It was less of Golden State's advantage as it was the defense making Phoenix look frustrated, out of sync and discouraged. They held the Suns to fifteen points in the quarter on their way to a 76-61 lead.

Fourth Quarter

Two keys to the Warriors dominating fourth quarter:

#1: Stephen Curry went into all-star mode. The guy put on his usual highlight reel shooting performance to pair with some fantastic defense on Eric Bledsoe. He isn't just a shooter, and isn't just a passer. He has taken his game to a more complete level, and it was key tonight to controlling the game in the fourth to expand the lead. Threes hit out of the crowd, the three in the corner on the behind the back pas from Livingston both looked amazing. But his shut down defense and pressure in the passing lanes leading to steals expand and solidify his effect on the floor.

#2: The word of the night was "comeback" as the Suns had crawled back into the game in the second quarter. There would be no comeback this game, as the Warriors simply didn't allow the Suns any momentum all night. They turned Phoenix into a jump shooting team, and those shots were far from falling. They held the Suns to 34 points in the second half, keeping them under 40% shooting and simply killed their spirit on their way to the 98-80 win.

General Observations

  • Steve Kerr continues to tinker with the rotation, continuing to favor Ezeli first off the bench before Mo Speights. You have to think when the game starts to grind to a halt that Festus will be the preferred back up big, however the team takes a four on five deficit for the majority of their offensive possessions. Will he update this second lineup with more David Lee minutes? Will the scoring from Shawn Livingston allow this unit to continue to be an advantage? The Warriors shouldn't take a ten-player rotation into the playoffs, but it's very hard to argue against it.
  • It was a shame to see Brandon Knight go down in a heap, rolling up on Green's ankle on a drive in the second. Knight is still very young (only 23) but has yet to put together a consistent run of basketball anywhere he has been with injuries. He will have a long career ahead of him, and hoping this newest leg injury doesn't keep him down for long.
  • Shawn Livingston plays within his means at all times. He rarely takes a shot outside of his range, feels more than comfortable with his hook shot and jumper within ten feet, and moves well without the ball. He is making ever penny of his deal signed before the year worth it, as he will play big playoff minutes and even score big playoff baskets in the future.

Final Observations

The Warriors hit fifty wins tonight to nobody's surprise. We knew the offense was going to be there all season, but to see this level of defense has been astounding. They absolutely clamped up a Phoenix team that has given them problems in the past. Sure, we would all hope that the offense could be more balanced and that Steph and Klay wouldn't have to carry so much of the scoring. But tonight their shots were falling, and the defense took care of the rest. Many would have been happy winning two of these three games as part of this mini stretch, but to come out winning all three shows that this team is peaking at the right time, preparing for the postseason.