In hindsight, the first quarter between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns told us everything we needed to know. Steph Curry went ballistic, with a patented Curry Flurry. The team was spirited, and clearly played hard. And the defense, after about three interesting minutes, decided to hibernate.
Curry scored 17 points and only missed one shot. And the Warriors were losing when the buzzer rang.
That ended up being the entire game. The next 36 minutes of action followed the exact same blueprint. Curry playing like an MVP. Everyone else playing with energy, but forgetting how to play defense.
And the Suns winning.
The Dubs gave up yet another 70-point first half, which has become the norm for them. Curry’s offense, some big shots from Andrew Wiggins, and a few buckets from the bench had the Warriors putting up some nice numbers, but they couldn’t resist the temptation of letting Phoenix do the same. And so they trailed 72-65 at the half.
Our hopes and prayers for the third quarter Warriors to emerge were met with crickets. The Warriors played uninspired ball to start the third quarter, with turnover after turnover leading to easy buckets for the Suns, who were without star point guard Chris Paul.
Phoenix’s lead got further and further away, with Golden State trailing by 14 points to enter the final frame.
Through it all, Curry continued to state his case as the best player in the NBA. He never took his foot off the gas, scoring from everywhere on the court, and in every manner. And he also continued to show his frustration in the team’s inability to meet him there, as he picked up another uncharacteristic technical foul when he smacked the ball into the stands.
Two days after a mild offensive performance as he let his teammates take over, Curry dropped 50 points against the Suns, on blistering efficiency: 17-for-28 shooting, 7-for-11 threes, and 9-for-9 free throws. He added a team-high 9 rebounds, and capped off the highlight show with 6 assists.
But he left the court with about two minutes remaining, and the game decided. The Warriors lost 130-119, and are now an unthinkable 0-8 on the road.
Wiggins finished with an efficient 14 points, but didn’t contribute much elsewhere, with just 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and mediocre defense. Draymond Green had a few highlight plays and finished with 9 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals, without missing a shot, but right now he’s quarterbacking a bad defense, and deserves much of that blame.
Klay Thompson had another rough night, but stayed on the court in garbage time to iron out some wrinkles, and found a little bit of rhythm. He finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists, on 6-for-17 shooting.
The bench struggled mightily, and ended up with just 17 points. Jordan Poole had 8 assists, but didn’t make a field goal. JaMychal Green played with all kinds of energy, but shot just 1-for-7. Donte DiVincenzo was only mildly better, at 2-for-7.
But the story was the defense, or the lack thereof. Even without Paul and starting forward Cameron Johnson, the Suns scored at will, dropping 30 or more points in each of the first three quarters. Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, and Mikal Bridges all eclipsed the 20-point mark on stellar efficiency, and former Warrior Damion Lee hit a few dagger threes in response to the rare moments that the Dubs showed fourth-quarter life.
The Warriors are now 6-9, which is decidedly not nice. But they’ll return to the only place that they know how to win on Friday, when they host the New York Knicks.