The Warriors came into this game still stinging from the painful double-overtime loss to the Houston Rockets. Although Golden State probably didn’t need any extra motivation, it should be noted that the Warriors had not lost two games in a row in over 105 regular-season contests.
The home team limped out of the gate early on, and it was a symphony of ugliness: careless turnovers, some bad defensive rotations and general malaise. The Warriors stumbled in their efforts to keep pace with the Suns early. But after the first painful four minutes, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant worked to somehow pull the Warriors ahead by seven by the time the first quarter came to an end.
From there, like a fine-tuned motorcycle left in the garage for too long and finally out on the twisty roads, the Warriors’ machine began to sputter to life as the second quarter began. Within two minutes of the start of the period, the Warriors lead had ballooned to double digits on the strength of an opening 16-0 run by the Warriors — a lead which eventually got all the way up to 21 points before the Suns managed to chip it down to nine at the half.
There is something so damn sexy about this Warriors team when it’s humming like this. The ball was flying around. Recklessly? Perhaps, at times — the team did end up with 17 turnovers on the night. But here’s the thing about Achilles’ heel: they have to be fatal, and that isn’t the case with the Warriors. Golden State’s sometimes sloppy handling of the ball is just a cost of doing business with what may well go on to become the most efficient offense in NBA history.
There are plenty of accolades to go around in this Warriors’ win against the Suns. Stephen Curry (31 points on 15 shots) and Klay Thompson (26 points) both went crazy, and Kevin Durant dominated on both ends. The team shot 62% on the night — narrowly missing setting yet another record — and tallied 30 assists before the fourth quarter. Draymond Green had a season-high 12 assists (to go with 9 points and 5 rebounds) in 28 minutes.
And yet, after the game, it’s really Kevin Durant who stood out as the best player. He made 20 points on seven shots, but the real stamp he put on this game was his hard-nosed play around the basket, which included three powerful blocks on the night.
Just watch this play. Durant with a power swat, which then transitions into a brutal three-on-one fast break and ends with a dagger from Curry.
That’s pretty much how it went in the second half. The Warriors’ offensive “big three” combined for 77 points on 39 shots.
“We came out aggressive after halftime,” Curry said. Talk about an understatement. You can see some of the highlights of his second half here, courtesy of CSN:
The Suns did what they could. Devin Booker racked up 21 points and 5 assists, while Eric Bledsoe ended with 27 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. As we’ve seen in previous losses, the Warriors can be susceptible to drive-and-kick action. Thankfully, the Warriors shot their way beyond the trajectory of this team but it’s definitely something to watch for.
The “Curry Rules” clearly call for opposing players to break Steph down off the dribble. If the opposition has competent shooters and an adroit ballhandler, we should expect a defensive struggle. While Curry and the Warriors did much better against the Suns, if you were looking for a chink in Golden State’s armor — this is it.
Saturday’s win was an all-around effort, including solid appearances of bench stalwarts Andre Iguodala (5 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists) and Shaun Livingston (a quietly effective 4 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes). Thanks to some extended garbage time, we also got a good look at the deep end of the bench, too — with Ian Clark chipped in 9 points and 3 assists and JaVale McGee adding 10 points. Steve Kerr is right: McGee gives us some “vertical spacing” and, as we all like to see, he was a generally positive contributor.
Finally, because there seems to be a (somewhat understandable) lack of coverage about the poor guy, Zaza Pachulia should be commended on his play: 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals in just 14 minutes.
For those who want more on Saturday night’s game, visit these links:
- Box score: http://www.nba.com/games/20161203/PHXGSW#/boxscore
- Game highlights: https://twitter.com/warriors/status/805309592775204864
- Game flow: http://popcornmachine.net/gf?date=20161203&game=PHOGSW
The game flow aptly displays the “run downhill” narrative of this game, and we shouldn’t be surprised — not by the Warriors being this good or by them looking like a sloppy mess in the first four minutes.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people affected by the horrible fire in Oakland. It’s a pretty tight scene of artists in this area, and webs of people all across the area have been torn down by this tragedy even as it continues to unfold. Before Saturday’s game, the Warriors held a moment of silence in commemoration. The team also donated $50,000 to Unity Council, a nonprofit organization in Fruitvale.
For those in the spirit of giving, here’s the link to the Unity Council website: https://unitycouncil.org.