With just 10 active players, the Golden State Warriors overcame a first-half malaise, a career night from Josh Jackson and a combined 73 points absent from the lineup to defeat the Phoenix Suns in the last back-to-back of the season.
After scoring just 52 points in the first half, and allowing the Suns sans-Devin Booker to score 60 points on 50% shooting, the Warriors “flipped the switch” and dropped 72 points in the second half, while clamping down defensively to hold Phoenix to just 49 points.
A “tale of two halves” is contrite and cliched, but really does describe this game accurately. The Warriors came out in the first half lackadaisically, and although they were only down by eight after a particularly rough-shooting half, it did not seem as though the energy was there to claw back for a win.
Draymond Green was visibly frustrated after several defensive lapses, and one particular sequence stood out in which JaVale McGee failed to inbound a ball without crossing the baseline plane, causing a turnover — more on that below. That the Warriors were able to come out of halftime in attack mode, determined not to lose two in a row, speaks to Green’s skills as a leader, both verbal and demonstrative.
To put a different spin on this extended recap, I wanted to “grade” each Warriors’ performance. The players are sorted from plus/minus, high to low, with a short blurb explaining my reasoning for the letter grade.
Nick Young (s) +29: B+
I did not expect Nick Young to have lead the team in plus/minus and had to double-check the box score to make sure I got it correct. It’s not that he played poorly, but his impact did was not readily observable in the second half when the Warriors made their big run to get ahead of the Suns. After scoring 16 points in the first half to lead all Golden State players, Young would score just four points in the second half.
Despite some notable defensive lapses, Swaggy P was an on-balance positive contribution, and his game-high plus/minus leads me to think his very presence (read: gravity) helped other scorers find space. What makes Young frustrating to watch on the defensive end of the floor is that he is not a bad defender. When he locks onto his man, he utilizes his 6’7” effectively, almost like a Klay-lite. But he’s often a step behind his mark when he’s defending off-the-ball.
ZaZa Pachulia (s) +21: B
ZaZa Pachulia was another player I did not expect to find so high on the plus/minus. At first glance, his stat-line does not stand out, scoring just two points on four shots, grabbing seven rebounds and passing out two assists in 16 minutes of game-time. But his stout screens gave the Warriors’ ball-handlers wide-berth on pick and rolls. Pachulia is a controversial figure, even within the Warriors’ fan base, but he is the steady, reliable center option (to the JaVale truther’s chagrin) that manages to make the smart play more often than not.
Quinn Cook (s) +19: A+
Quinn Cook was, in a word, electrifying, as he broke his career-high in points for the second night in a row, scoring 28 on 17 shots. In the rich history of backup guards for this current iteration of the Warriors team, Cook is a fast rising fan-favorite. He is a beloved teammate, frequently referenced by the broadcasting booth, and it seems as though his work ethic will serve him well as he will undoubtedly get paid this summer.
An intriguing situation lies in store for Cook for the rest of the season, as his current two-way contract would render him ineligble for any playoff minutes with the Warriors. His play as of late has certainly earned him a shot at more meaningful playoff minutes. But the question remains: who would need to be cut to make room for him?
Draymond Green (s) +16: A+
Green is my favorite player on the Warriors, so there may be some biased grade inflation going on here, but to me, his contributions were just as valuable as Cook’s. Knowing Green is extremely competitive, I was excited to see how he would respond after taking an ill-advised late-game three pointer in the Sacramento Kings loss, and he certainly did not disappoint.
Games like these are an approximation, albeit imperfect, of what a Green-led team would look like. Green set the tone for the team in the second-half, coming out of the gates with purpose. He drove strong to the rim, looking to score first and draw contact second, a priority order I sometimes feel is too frequently flipped for Green when he gets complacent offensively. “Treymond” made another appearance, as he knocked down four of his eight attempts from beyond the arc, and all the attempts but one seemed to be in the rhythm of the offense.
Andre Iguodala (s) +11: B
Andre Iguodala has had an interesting up-and-down season to this point, or perhaps down-and-up is more accurate. The 34-year-old veteran was the target of much-wringing by the Warriors fanbase after seemingly forgetting how to shoot just months after inking a 3-year, $48 million deal last summer. Iguodala has rounded out his play nicely in the last month, and though he made just one of his four attempts from beyond the arc, he looks physically reinvigorated compared to the beginning of the season. He was poised, confident, and clutch in the third quarter to bring the Warriors within one, and position them to retake the lead. It’s nice to have the old ‘Dre back.
Kevon Looney +5: A-
Though his plus/minus five appears pedestrian, Kevon Looney had a career night in Phoenix, setting highs for himself in scoring with 13 points with six blocks. His six blocks is the most for any player off the bench in the NBA this season. Looney is another player who will get paid this summer, hopefully by the Warriors, but likely another team will be able to offer more for the forward. He has grown into the player most predicted him to be when he was drafted nearly three years ago. He is not the most athletic player, but his timing, wingspan, and steady demeanor makes him a positive on both sides of the ball.
JaVale McGee +1: C
The honeymoon period may officially be over between JaVale McGee and the Golden State Warriors. It was just a short season ago where McGee was a dynamic center option for the team off the bench, amazing fans with his athletic dunks off alley-oops. Even more recently was the Warriors double-digit win-streak with McGee starting just last month. But there is no doubting his position in the rotation has suffered; he played just three minutes tonight and was yanked after he mishandled an in-bounds play, giving the Suns a free possession.
This year, McGee is playing the fewest amount of minutes per game of his career, but I still believe he can be a potent rotation player in the right matchup. As a longtime JaVale advocate, it’s hard to see him get sidelined for extended periods, but ultimately he needs to prove to Kerr that he can be trusted, especially if he wants to get meaningful playoff minutes.
David West -6: B
David West has emerged as a steady contributor for this team and has at times looked like the best option at the center spot. The 37-year-old did what he did best, made some open mid-range shots, secured rebounds, delivered passes to cutters, and generally provided toughness on the interior. He turned the ball over a bit too much, with three turnovers on the night, but his aim was true when the Warriors were piecing together their run in the third quarter.
Jordan Bell -8: B-
After several high-profile ankle injuries, it is simply nice to see the rookie Jordan Bell get some burn. He oozes potential, with the supreme athleticism and defensive instincts to make spectacular plays, like his chase-down block or passing-lane swipe that lead to a strong two-handed slam in transition. On the flip side, he is prone to getting too excited at the possibility of a block or highlight play, and may do something foolish like fouling on a three-pointer. Bell is still an exciting prospect under the tutelage of the best defensive player in the league, and I look forward to watching him grow as a player.
Shaun Livingston -13: B-
Shaun Livingston finished the night with the team-low minus 13. Although his stat line seems to not match that figure, as he finished with 11 points on six shots, with four assists and a steal, all without a turnover, it was his defensive deficiencies that made him a net-negative. Livingston has proved himself to be a capable defender in the past, and this may just be a consequence of a veteran saving something in the tank for the playoffs, but his defense has definitely taken a dip this year and it is something to watch for come post-season. Offensively, he is still crafty as ever, and that turn-around mid range shot continues to pay dividends for the Warriors.
Who was the Warrior Wonder against the Suns?
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