The Phoenix Suns went the entire month of November without losing a basketball game, but on December 3rd, the Golden State Warriors ended their 18-game win streak behind a stellar effort from their bench players and Draymond Green. Draymond was magnificent on both ends in the 118-96 victory, picking up six steals and three blocks, while putting up a “British Emergency Call” line of 9/9/9, while both Gaey Payton II and Juan Toscano Anderson starred off the bench, with 19 and 17 points respectively.
It was a very different game than the Suns’ victory Tuesday night, when Phoenix shut down the Warriors with tough defense. Golden State solved that defense last night, particularly in the second half, when they put up 67 points. DeAndre Ayton scored 23 points, but simply wasn’t as effective on defense, and Cam Payne was a disaster offensively, harassed into 3-17 shooting. Oh, and a guy named Steph Curry bounced back from his worst shooting game of the season to nail six three-pointers. He’s now 27 threes behind Ray Allen for the all-time record, and if continues on his current pace, that should happen at Madison Square Garden in ten days.
3⃣0⃣ threes away now from NBA history pic.twitter.com/046TRzhJr5— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 4, 2021
After the game, Curry said, “Obviously, it doesn’t mean much but just our 19th win, but it is nice to protect your home court. Something’s got to give, and we’ve had a really good home record and nice streak going ourselves in this building, so we’d rather keep ours going than let theirs live.”
If you’ve been paying attention to the Warriors’ season, you can probably guess when they started to pull away from Phoenix. After committing 11 fouls in the second quarter, giving Phoenix 16 free throws, they stopped defending with their hands in the third, and started moving their feet. It was a three-point game at halftime, and after a controversial foul call on Draymond, which Steve Kerr challenged unsuccessfully, two Jae Crowder free throws made it a 56-54 game.
But just like in the Clippers game, a referee’s call seemed to jump start the team. Wiggins and Ayton traded buckets, and then the Warriors went on an 11-0 run, led by three-pointers from Curry, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins. Poole also drew a charge and, after losing the ball to Chris Paul, stole it back and got Curry a bucket. The Suns never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The Warriors got a huge lift from two of their bench players. Gary Payton II and Juan Toscano Anderson started the year as the last men on the 15-man roster. Payton was waived after training camp, and JTA has endured a DNP-CD while nearly falling out of the rotation. They average seven and five points per game, respectively. But at this point in the season, they might be the team’s most indispensable bench players (along with Otto Porter Jr, but we knew he was good!). Tonight, Payton had 19 points on 7-9 shooting, and JTA had 17 on 7-8 shooting, with five assists. Of course, they each had a steal and a block as well, and Payton had a huge tie-up on Chris Paul in the 4th that led to a jump ball and a Draymond three. Yes, Gary Payton II can handily outjump 36-year-old CP3.
They also each delivered savage dunks. Toscano-Anderson’s dunk on JaVale McGee was an epic throwdown, one McGee acknowledged when he tweeted “Congrats young fella I’ll sign it for you.”
JTA almost had another huge dunk but Jae Crowder shoved him in the back and got called for a flagrant foul. He split his free throws, but got the indirect three-point play when Payton got a layup after the inbounds. Not to be outdone, Young Glove stole a Chris Paul pass and took flight in the 4th, a play that took away whatever remaining fight Phoenix had midway through the 4th.
When they weren’t throwing it down, the bench stars were getting steals, getting fouled at the hoop, and knocking down threes. Just as they did in the first game, Phoenix consciously ignored Payton at the three-point line Friday night and this time he hit 3/5 from distance.
Phoenix was without All-Star Devin Booker for this game, who injured his hamstring midway through Tuesday’s contest. They were also playing on a back-to-back after facing the Pistons Thursday. The Warriors should send Detroit a nice gift basket for mounting a comeback in the third quarter and not letting Phoenix rest their starters.
Chris Paul had a much quieter game, thanks in part to the defense of Andrew Wiggins. With Booker out, he took on the assignment of CP3, often checking him full court on plays. Paul struggled to get anything going aside from flailing his arms or running sideways into Wiggins to get cheap fouls. Wiggins had 19 points including a Penny Hardaway-esque step back jumper over Paul.
He also delivered the early frontrunner for Missed Dunk of the Year off a dime from Draymond. The Warriors still ended up getting two points on the possession after Damion Lee chased down the miss - it was that kind of game.
As usual, the defense was spearheaded by Draymond, who continued to build his case for a second Defensive Player of the Year award. The only defensive accolade he can’t get is one of assistant coach Mike Brown’s defensive play of the game awards, and that’s only because he doesn’t need the motivation.
Ostensible Curry stopper Mikal Bridges left the game briefly in the first quarter with an injury, but returned midway through the second, and finished with seven points. Damion Lee returned from paternity leave for the Warriors and scored four points, while Nemanja Bjelica had eight points, six rebounds and two blocks in his 16 minutes off the bench. Jordan Poole continued his newfound passing ways with five assists to accompany his 14 points, and fouled out in the final two minutes with the game long decided.
The Warriors go right back on the court tonight for a matchup with the 7-13 San Antonio Spurs, who have won three in a row, including blowouts of Portland and Washington. It’s a mismatch on paper, but Coach Popovich always delivers some surprises when he’s facing his former protege.