You all thought Christmas was over? Apparently for the Warriors, Christmas miracles last for at least three days, judging by the way they staged a furious come-from-behind 105-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
1) The Warriors defense played exceptionally well
The Warriors haven’t exactly been the best at limiting their opponents from scoring. For most of the season, they have belonged in the slums of the NBA defensive leaderboards. They once were ranked dead last in defensive efficiency. They were absolutely terrible at defending the three-point shot.
Defense wins championships, and while these Warriors’ chances at a title is pretty much non-existent, a robust defense will almost always make them be competitive in most of their matchups. It is no coincidence that this current four-game streak has been made possible through a series of vastly improved defensive showings, with the highlight performance being their masterpiece against the Houston Rockets on Christmas day. They held the third-ranked offense to just 104 points while putting up a defensive rating of 100.0; additionally, they held the trigger-happy Rockets to just 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The Warriors continued to play hard-nosed, aggressive defense against the Suns, forcing 27 turnovers (28 points scored off those turnovers) and holding the Suns to just 21.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc. By the end of the game, the Warriors put up a defensive rating of 94.2 — well below their season average (111.6, 23rd in the league).
Dating back to their December 20 win over the New Orleans Pelicans — the first of this current four-game winning streak — up till this latest win against the Suns, the Warriors have a defensive rating of 97.6, which has been the second-best rating in that period.
2) The Warriors shooting was bad for three quarters, but skyrocketed in the fourth
The first three quarters saw the Warriors scuffle on offense. After three quarters, the Warriors — despite forcing the Suns to commit so many turnovers — couldn’t take advantage because they were looking like they drank too many eggnogs celebrating the Rockets win — 37.1 percent from the field, 31.3 percent from threes, and often resorting to isolations and settling for jumpers.
They finally woke up from their Christmas-induced hangover in the fourth. Alec Burks, who struggled in finding his shooting rhythm in the first three quarters, came alive in the fourth to score 9 of his 13 points. D’Angelo Russell scored 12 of his 31 points in the fourth through drawing contact and going to the line, as well as knocking down clutch jumpers and a layup that stretched the Warriors lead to 9 with just over a minute remaining.
Glenn Robinson III went up for this explosive putback dunk that sent Chase Center into a frenzy:
After scoring 25, 18, and 23 points during the first three quarters, the Warriors exploded in the fourth with 39 points, while holding the Suns to just 18 points. They shot 12-of-22 from the field (54.5 percent), 3-of-9 from beyond the arc (33.3 percent), and put in 12 of their 14 free-throw attempts (85.7 percent) during the fourth quarter — a far cry from the shooting famine that befell them during the first three quarters.
And last, but certainly not the least ...
3) Draymond Green transforms into Stephen Curry in fourth quarters
Green is known for many things — an elite defender, an exceptional passer, a vocal and effective leader, and a basketball savant.
But he’s not known for being a competent three-point shooter. He is shooting an abysmal 27.3 percent from beyond the arc this season. He hasn’t been a good shooter overall for several seasons now, to the point that teams are keen on leaving him open and are daring him to beat them from long range.
The Rockets dared Green to beat them from long range on Christmas, and beat them he did. The Suns tried the same, and Green beat them again during the fourth quarter:
Teams should really consider tightening their defense on Green during the fourth quarter, especially in crunchtime situations.
Draymond Green from 3 this season— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 28, 2019
Fourth quarter: 7 of 13
The first three quarters: 9 of 50
Steve Kerr: “When the game matters, when it’s on the line, (Draymond) suddenly becomes a good shooter.” pic.twitter.com/vhiVzs0G65— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 28, 2019
The Warriors have now won four games in a row, which is currently the longest win streak in the Western Conference.
Longest current win streak in the West: Warriors -- 4— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 28, 2019
Can they make it five against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks tomorrow? After what they’ve been doing as of late, why not? Christmas miracles apparently do exist in the NBA.
Steve Kerr: "You can't stop us. You can only hope to contain us."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 28, 2019