You know the drama, and you know the story. I’m not telling you anything new here. The Golden State Warriors are rematching the Phoenix Suns tonight, three days after dropping a 104-96 contest — their biggest loss of the year, and one of Steph Curry’s worst shooting nights.
There’s no such thing as a must-win game in early December, but we’re always looking for barometers. The Warriors passed the opening day barometer against the Los Angeles Lakers. They passed the monthly check-in barometer against the Brooklyn Nets, with flying colors.
The first barometer against the Suns? Not so much.
That’s no big deal, of course. Even the record-setting 2015-16 Warriors lost nine games.
But it’s common, especially this early in the season, to try and ascribe barometer losses to something. When the Dubs lost to the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets — teams that are hovering around .500 — it was easy to dismiss them as meaningless. Good games by the opponents. Off games by the Warriors. Losses happen.
It’s harder against a team that, after beating the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, now has the best record in the NBA. The Warriors are battling the Suns for Western Conference supremacy. They’re on a crash course to face each other in the spring for seven epic games. It makes the results feel a bit more meaningful, because you can let your mind wander into using it as a projection for what will happen when the season is on the line.
Of course, neither squad will look the same in the spring. All-Star shooting guards from both teams will be absent Friday night, with Klay Thompson yet to make his season debut, and Devin Booker suffering a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s game.
Still, it’s probably safe to say Warriors fans are itching for a win in this game more than in any of the other 21 games. More than when facing LeBron James. More than when facing Kevin Durant.
The Suns have the best record in the NBA, which can be stolen by the Warriors with a win. They have an 18-game winning streak, which can be ended by the Warriors.
They’re the defending Western Conference champions. The Warriors can’t change that for another half a year, but a win sure would make you more confident in that outcome.