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Four thoughts as Warriors suffer four-point loss to Suns

OAKLAND — The visiting Phoenix Suns outlasted the Warriors to a 115-111 win Sunday night. Here are four thoughts from the loss.

Bad loss follows statement win

The Warriors called a team meeting early in the week to address their recent shortcomings. One point of emphasis was bringing better, more consistent energy, and that manifested into a 17-point statement win over the Denver Nuggets in the following game.

Prior to Sunday’s contest, Steve Kerr preached the importance of focus and consistency. Would the Warriors come out and play equally as hard against Phoenix, one of the league’s worst teams?

One of Golden State’s worst losses of the season followed arguably its best win.

The energy went in spurts. The Warriors jumped out to a 12-3 start in the game’s first 4:10. They led, 27-11, after the first 9:03. By all accounts, the game was headed toward a 40-point blowout.

But the Warriors went cold. Stephen Curry had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, going 6-20 from the field and 4-15 from three. Klay Thompson cooled off after an electric start. DeMarcus Cousins, who missed all three of his three-point attempts, has been unable to find his outside stroke. And the Warriors’ backup unit, averaging the 22nd-most bench points entering Sunday, didn’t provide much of a spark.

As the game progressed, Suns shooting guard Devin Booker took over. He scored 17 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter. At one point, he scored 13 straight Suns points. It didn’t matter whom the Warriors threw at Booker.

It wasn’t until the game’s final minutes, and the Warriors trailing by a few scores, that they really started to lock down and force the ball out of Booker’s hands. They inched back, but Curry’s frustrating night ended fittingly when he missed a relatively open three-point look that would have tied the game with about 20 seconds left.

The knockout punch never came

One of the most incredible parts of Golden State’s 2017-18 triumph was its consistent dismantling of teams in the third quarter. This year’s Warriors haven’t enjoyed the same destruction, but they still lead the NBA with 31 points per third quarter.

But Sunday was an anomaly. The Warriors scored 23 points in the third quarter and entered the fourth with a one-point lead.

Early in the fourth, they launched a 9-0 run to go up by seven points. But that never developed into the knockout punch that we have routinely seen.

Ayton caps terrific four-game stretch

Prior to the game, Kerr praised Suns center Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Kerr said Ayton hasn’t gotten the praise that fellow rookies Luka Doncic and Trae Young have, but Ayton has been equally deserving. He entered Sunday averaging 16.6 points and 10.3 rebounds, the most for all rookies.

Kerr has seen Ayton produce against the Warriors throughout the season. He entered Sunday with a 22.7-point average against the Warriors in three games. He scored at least 20 in all three previous matchups. Golden State’s struggles against imposing centers are no secret, and Ayton exposed that once again Sunday.

Whether jump hooks, midrange jumpers, or contested layups, Ayton bothered the Warriors all game. He tallied 18 points and nine rebounds. He frustrated Cousins, which boiled into a technical foul after he continued to prod the officials.

In a Western Conference loaded with big, active centers like Ayton, the Warriors are bound to run into the same type of presence in the playoffs.

Klay’s best career dunk?

For whatever reason, Thompson has looked more explosive in his eighth NBA season. That has held true since he returned from a two-game absence due to knee soreness.

Last game, he poured in 39 points on nine made threes. He shot off to a quick start and never cooled off, which leaked into the first quarter Sunday. Thompson shot out of a cannon to score 10 points in the game’s opening minutes, including a reverse dunk that may be the best of his career.

After the dunk, Thompson went through a dry spell, connecting on just three of his next 14 shots. He finished 10 for 22 with 28 points, a relatively normal night for the always combustible shooter.

In a forgettable performance by the Warriors, the one highlight that will resurface is Thompson’s dunk.


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