The Warriors welcomed the Phoenix Suns to Oracle Arena on Monday night in their second-to-last game before the All-Star Break. The Warriors did exactly what they were expected to do: defeat a team with one of the worst records in the NBA this season.
That said, it was the Warriors’ most complete victory in a long time, with the team leading at the end of each quarter. It was also the first proper, dominant Warriors’ blowout victory in a little while.
Beyond that, there were a few other interesting wrinkles that warrant a bit more consideration.
A point-guard showdown between Payton and Curry
The best individual matchup of the game was between the two point guards — Stephen Curry and Elfrid Payton. Playing just his second game with the club, Payton provided the bulk of the Suns’ offense against the Warriors, particularly important with Devin Booker missing the game.
Payton’s biggest contribution came in the first quarter when he scored 16 of his game-high 29 points. But after going seven-for-seven from the field in that first quarter, Payton shot just 36% from the field for the rest of the game.
Beyond Payton and T.J. Warren, no other Suns players scored 10 or more points as their team did not possess the offensive firepower to keep up with the Warriors.
Curry, meanwhile, took a much different route than Payton to his team-high 22 points against the Suns. The Warriors’ point guard started out the game slow, shooting 25% from the field and scoring just five points in the first quarter.
But Curry’s productivity picked up as the game went along. Even though he never got the three-point shot to fall against the Suns, Curry got buckets by attacking the basket.
David West must have heard all the nice stuff Steph was saying about him earlier. pic.twitter.com/idFuswQEJr— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 13, 2018
Curry also finished the game with 9 rebounds and 7 assists, getting very close to a triple-double. Because the game got so out of hand in the third quarter, there was no need for Curry or Kevin Durant (who scored 17 points while shooting 88.9% from the field) to play in the fourth quarter, which kept them from really getting their totals up into the stratosphere.
It was Curry who provided the offensive counter-punch to Payton, playing a big role in allowing the Warriors to get the blowout victory.
A better defensive effort
One thing that stood out was that the Warriors’ defense looked much more focused. Though the defense slacked off a bit in the second half as the game became increasingly out of hand, the overall play in the first half was noticeably better — crisper. Golden State forced Phoenix into 12 first-half turnovers (resulting in 14 Warriors’ points), while holding all Suns’ players who weren’t Payton to single-digit points.
No one is mistaking these Suns for the “Seven Seconds or Less” teams, but the Warriors have allowed other struggling offenses to play well against them recently. In particular, Andre Iguodala’s defense was noticeably better. He was active: getting deflections and forcing bad shots. This is a welcome sight for the Warriors and their fans as the season inches closer to the playoffs.
It is noticeable that the Warriors put together this defensive performance without their best defensive player — Draymond Green — in the lineup. Even without their defensive anchor and stalwart, the Warriors still turned in an impressive defensive performance
Two struggling Warriors play well: McCaw and Casspi
Two players who have been been disappointing and frustrating Warriors’ fans recently are Patrick McCaw and Omri Casspi. But against the Suns, both players put in their best performances in quite some time.
After spending some time with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors, McCaw was much more aggressive on Monday night, particularly on offense, as he routinely slashed towards the basket for layups. McCaw scored nine points against the Suns — his highest point total since Dec. 27, 2017.
McCaw also made his first three-pointer since Dec. 27 on Monday night.
Patrick McCaw makes his first three since Dec. 27 pic.twitter.com/rAOBdTF1XW— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 13, 2018
Unfortunately, McCaw’s night was cut short as a sprained right wrist caused him to miss the second half of the game. Hopefully it’s nothing serious because — after a stretch of inconsistent play — McCaw looked like he might be turning the corner on Monday night against the Suns.
Getting the start for the injured Green, Casspi made the most of his playing time by scoring a season-high 17 points against the Suns — his first game with double-digit scoring since (you guessed it) Dec. 27.
Perhaps most important for Warriors fans: Casspi attempted two shots from long distance, his first three-point attempts since Jan. 6. Best of all, he made one! This basket was Casspi’s first made three-point shot since Dec. 14.
BREAKING: Omri Casspi just made a 3-pointer for the first time since....... December 14th pic.twitter.com/nkEp6RpwO1— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) February 13, 2018
Again, one must remember that these performances came against the Suns, one of the worst teams in the league this season. Nevertheless, it was a very good to see McCaw and Casspi play this well. Hopefully this is the beginning of a nice stretch of basketball for both of them so that they’re ready to contribute when the playoffs start.
Surprisingly, the Warriors keep the turnovers to a minimum
Another reason the Warriors were able to win comfortably was because they didn’t turn the ball over. Turnovers have plagued the Warriors all season but especially in this recent stretch of less-than-stellar play.
The Warriors turned the ball over just four times in the first half on their way to a 17-point halftime lead. Just as the defense became a little more lax in the second half, so, too, did the ball protection as Golden State turned it over seven times for a total of 11 turnovers in the game. But it was refreshing to see the Warriors hanging onto the ball and not giving a team like the Suns the extra possessions and shot attempts that would have allowed them to stay in a game they had no real business being in.
The players do the coaching
There was one very noticeable difference to this game for the Warriors — Steve Kerr let the players do the coaching.
Notable: Steve Kerr is having the players run the timeout huddles tonight. Stood outside during every first quarter break. This was decided pregame. pic.twitter.com/Mnqjd8hl7x— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 13, 2018
Throughout the game, Iguodala, David West, and the sidelined Green took turns drawing up plays in the huddle. After the game, Kerr was asked about this decision and explained his rationale.
Steve Kerr said he meant no disrespect to the Suns, this was all to revive his team, saying his voice wasn't reaching them lately pic.twitter.com/kOUxc8n0rZ— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 13, 2018
As was alluded to in that postgame press conference, some saw this as a sign of disrespect towards the Suns — that the Warriors thought so little of their opponent that they just let the players coach for the hell of it. Rather than being a sign of disrespect, however, this was a very forward-thinking decision made by Kerr to get the team out of its habit of lackadaisical play.
Kerr’s move was akin to the teacher whose students aren’t doing the work or paying attention (which often happens if a break or vacation is coming up). The teacher makes the students do the work and, essentially, teach the class as a way of making them actually focus and engage with the material. This is what happened with the Warriors. The team looked more engaged and focused than it has in quite a while.
It was a very bright decision made by Kerr to cede control of this game to the players, one that not too many coaches in the NBA would be willing to do. Recognizing that a change in the in-game voice might be good for the team was definitely another manifestation of the humble, self-aware nature possessed by the Warriors’ head coach.
Sometimes, the best way to get someone more engaged is to give them more responsibility. Against the Suns on Monday night, the Warriors proved that to be true.
Gorgeous jerseys on display
This game also featured outstanding jerseys worn by both teams. It goes without saying that the Warriors’ “statement” jerseys — with “The Town” and the oak-tree symbol of Oakland prominently displayed — are amongst the best in the NBA this season.
The visitors were wearing throwback jerseys that called back to the franchise’s original uniforms, which the team wore from its inception 50 years ago until the 1990’s.
The Oakland-centric simplicity of the Warriors’ jerseys and the retro aesthetics of the Suns’ jerseys gave the game a nice look that I particularly enjoyed.
Who was your Warrior Wonder against the Suns?
This poll is closed
Coach Andre Iguodala
Coach Steve Kerr
Coach Draymond Green
Coach David West
Other (indicate in the comments)