After a decisive win and emotionally-charged postgame on Wednesday night, the Warriors traveled to Arizona to face off against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. This game at Talking Stick Resort Arena had all the makings of a game where the Warriors could lose focus and let a game get away from them. The Suns possess one of the worst records in the NBA and would be playing this game without Devin Booker, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. It was also part of a one-game road trip for the Warriors, as they would return to the Bay Area for four of their next five. It was a game that had all the makings of a “trap game” or the “letdown game” and the Warriors did their best to make that the case.
The Warriors played a dreadful combination of poor and lethargic basketball for much of the game, which allowed the Suns to hold a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. But the Warriors outscored the Suns by 13 points in the final quarter of Friday night’s game to pick up the 117-107 win.
Curry and Thompson close it out
The first three quarters of this game were ones that Stephen Curry probably wants to forget. It was one of those bizarre stretches of the game where nothing would go in for the two-time MVP. Good looks, bad looks, it didn’t matter. Nothing was falling for Curry through three quarters of Friday night’s game. Curry scored 10 points by the end of the third while shooting 2/12 from the field and from 1/8 three-point range.
But in the fourth quarter, Curry put those struggles firmly in the past. Playing just under seven minutes in the fourth, Curry scored 10 points, shooting 4/5 from the field, as the Warriors took the lead for good and sealed the win. Curry’s play was the key factor in the Warriors making that final push as he was a +16 in the fourth.
To go with his 20 points, Curry also handed out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds, helping his team even when his shot wasn't falling.
Curry’s struggles, especially from three-point range, gave a young Suns team hungry for win an opening. If there was ever a game the Warriors were going to drop to a team at the bottom of the standings, it would be one where Curry struggled like this.
But Curry locked in when the game was on the line as he and his Splash Brother (and birthday celebrator) Klay Thompson made sure the Warriors got this road win.
Thompson struggled for much of the game but got going the fourth quarter as well, scoring 11 of his team-high 25 points in the final frame. In addition to his scoring, Thompson also provided some solid defense down the stretch of Friday night’s game. Thompson came up with two big blocks, big stops that allowed the Warriors to go on an 11-0 run and retake the lead midway through the final quarter. Like Curry, Thompson was integral to the Warriors’ late-game surge, posting a +14 in the final quarter.
Their first three quarters were ones to forget, but Curry and Thompson both came up big in the fourth and made sure that the Warriors were to be leaving Phoenix with a victory.
Turnovers and technicals make things tough
The team’s struggles were compounded by the Warriors’ uninspired play throughout much of the game. It was as sloppy as the Warriors have played in quite some time. The Warriors turned the ball over 18 times against the Suns, the most the Warriors have turned it over in one game since December 12th against the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors’ turnover problems gave the Suns more opportunities to score as they attempted 101 field goals on Friday night while the Warriors attempted just 81.
The Suns turned those turnovers into points, scoring 22 points off Warriors turnovers, including 9 in a first quarter that allowed the Suns to claim a brief 17-point lead. Those extra possessions for the Suns, coupled with their domination in terms of offensive rebounds (grabbing 19 on Friday night), gave their offense a jump-start.
It was an especially good night for the Suns’ Kelly Oubre Jr., who led the Suns in scoring with 25 points. Oubre Jr.’s length and energy bothered the somewhat sluggish Warriors squad and he ended Friday night’s game with 3 steals as well.
The Warriors’ sloppiness was not limited to their play. They also weren’t always in control of their emotions and thus ran afoul of the officials. The Warriors were called for four technical fouls on Friday night. Draymond Green earned two techs, which ended his game after just three quarters.
Green picked up his second technical foul after letting the officials know that they missed a potential Oubre Jr. headbutt that probably warranted some kind of discipline.
Dray ejected from the game after complaining to the ref about Oubre almost headbutting him. pic.twitter.com/mY4YkVFv8C— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 9, 2019
We haven’t seen as much of the turnover-prone and argumentative Warriors that we saw quite a bit of last season, making mental errors that ended up costing them wins. They reverted back to those old ways on Friday night in Phoenix but they were still able to get a win.
Cousins stays in, helps Warriors win
Friday night’s game wasn’t the best performance DeMarcus Cousins has played with the Warriors. For the first three quarters of the game, the rust that comes with an extended hiatus from the court, was very much visible. Turnovers, missed shots, defensive lapses, they were all on display through the first three quarters of this game against the Suns.
But Cousins saved his best play for when the Warriors needed a boost— the fourth quarter. With Green sent to the locker room after his two technical fouls, the Warriors were going to need help in covering the minutes that Green would normally play in the final frame. Along with Jonas Jerebko (who was +12 in the fourth quarter), Cousins helped carry that load and scored 8 of his 18 points in the final quarter.
February 9, 2019
But more importantly was the way he and the Warriors handled the Suns’ Deandre Ayton. Ayton played well for much of Friday night’s game, scoring 21 of his 23 points through the first three quarters of the game. But in the fourth the Warriors did a much better job dealing with the rookie from Arizona. Cousins was a big part of it, helping to hold Ayton to just 2 points as the Suns’ big man posted a +/- of -9 in the fourth. Cousins, meanwhile, posted a +9 in the fourth quarter, making positive contributions that made sure the Warriors earned a victory.
That Cousins would even play late in the game was not guaranteed as he’s been on a tight minutes restriction since returning to the lineup. But Cousins pled his case to Steve Kerr and was allowed to exceed his 24-minute playing restriction so that he could stay in the game, playing nearly 27 minutes in the Warriors’ win over the Suns.
Boogie pleading to Coach Kerr to stay in the game pic.twitter.com/eDiIS0mB0v— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 9, 2019
The Warriors now fly back to the Bay Area for a Sunday evening game against the Miami Heat, Dwayne Wade’s final appearance in front of the Oracle crowd.