© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND – As you might expect, the Warriors beat the Phoenix Suns on Monday night at home. While the Suns added Trevor Ariza and drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 overall this offseason, they’re still a young team and the Warriors made that abundantly clear in a 123-103.
After a loss to the Nuggets on Sunday night that featured too many turnovers, too many fouls, and as Steve Kerr said before the game, bad shot selection and not enough passing, Monday was a quick reminder that games like Sunday are the anomaly, not the norm. Stephen Curry (29 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds) came one point away from his fourth-straight 30 point game and the Warriors rediscovered their shooting touch by going 14-of-37 (37.8 percent) from three.
Here are six things we learned from that bounce back win:
Red Panda is BACK
There are few performers with as unique and well-loved a halftime routine as Red Panda. The unicyclist, whose legal name is Krystal Niu, is renowned for her performances, which feature her riding a seven-and-a-half-foot unicycle while she balances bowls on her foot and flicks them up to land atop her head.
So, when Niu got her $25,000 unicycle stolen at San Francisco International Airport nine months ago, it was devastating news to anyone who had seen her perform. The Warriors quickly announced they would be buying her a new one, but because it’s a custom-built unicycle, it took months to prepare it for her. In the meantime, she has been using a secondary unicycle that isn’t as precise as her custom model.
But today, the Warriors finally got Red Panda her long-awaited unicycle. Warriors president and CEO presented the unicycle and Red Panda once again performed in front of an ecstatic Oracle Arena crowd. Before the game, head coach Steve Kerr said he was proud of the organization for making the move and called Red Panda “one of the great halftime acts in sports.”
Of course, Red Panda pulled off the absurd feat of landing 15 total bowls on her head at once. She was pretty psyched about it:
PANDA BACK WEARING THE 4-5 pic.twitter.com/AK7oDjVC1I
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) October 23, 2018
Damian Jones is a problem for opposing teams
Here’s how Jones started tonight: he caught a game-opening lob from Steph Curry, then tipped out an offensive rebound, locked down Deandre Ayton and then caught another lob.
Jones still needs to round out plenty of his game. He often catches passes and fails to go up strong with the ball under the hoop and commits unnecessary defensive fouls. But his athleticism has been consistently display and he’s provided the Javale McGee-like spark the Warriors need in the front court.
It’s a Mc-Replacement: McKinnie slotting into McCaw’s role with energy
All of a sudden, Alfonzo McKinnie appears to be capable of taking Patrick McCaw’s 10th man role on the wing. That might not seem like huge news, but the Warriors are weakest depth-wise on the wing, something McCaw may have been betting on when he declined to accept the team’s qualifying offer or two-year offer.
McKinnie came off the bench tonight like a shot of lightning. His first play was an offensive rebound that he snatched over three Suns defenders, including the 7’1″ Tyson Chandler. He pulled off a transition layup before getting another offensive rebound and a trip to the free throw line. In 18 minutes, McKinnie finished with career-highs of 10 points and 7 rebounds, along with a three-pointer.
Jacob Evans III finally makes his debut
It’s clear at this point that Evans is at the far end of the roster. Evans, the Warriors’ first-round draft pick (28th overall) from the University of Cincinnati, clearly has a lot to work on, especially in the mind of head coach Steve Kerr. He only entered tonight’s game as the Warriors led the Suns by more than 20 points and looked out of sorts on both ends of the floor.
Still, it’s nice to see the rookie get some playing time, even if it’s in garbage time.
The Suns look better… sort of
Let’s preface this by stating that the Suns are not good. They will not make the playoffs. They have lost to the Warriors in 16-straight regular season games. You’re reading that correctly. 16. Straight. Games.
But the Suns are young, and for maybe the first time since the Steve Nash-Amar’e Stoudemire era, the organization has a reason for optimism. Devin Booker is a bona fide superstar and score 28 points along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Deandre Ayton, despite showing some massive red flags defensively, looks like he has the potential to develop into the next modern star center, in a similar offensive mold to Joel Embiid.
TJ Warren is a great wing player to pair along with them. They’re still missing a lot, but if they draft high again this year, they’ll be more than on their way to creating a star-studded roster of the future. As the Warriors saw, it will take time though.
Klay Thompson exits with an ankle sprain
Thompson struggled at the start of tonight’s game and has only made three three-pointers this season (3-for-22). At one point, he hit three-straight shots and looked to be turning a corner. Unfortunately, Thompson exited the game with a left ankle sprain and did not return.
Injury update: Klay Thompson (mild left ankle sprain) will not return to tonight's game.
— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) October 23, 2018