© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
If you tuned in to watch Wednesday night’s clash of the titans in the form of the Warriors versus the Phoenix Suns, well, you must really like basketball. And if you really like basketball, you were probably left shaking your head for much of the contest. The Warriors lost 112-106 in one of their now-patented close-but-not-close-enough losses for number 43 on the year.
Wednesday was typified by large stretches of poor passing, decision-making and defensive positioning. It was a pinball-esque night for both teams, with the Warriors turning it over and the Suns fouling far too often.
Golden State did that thing they keep doing, which is keep it close, but not really that close. It felt like they were perpetually behind by about six-to-eight points. That was in large part to that poor defensive positioning, allowing the Suns to either get wide-open threes (14-of-37 on threes), or to get second-chance points.
The Suns only out-rebounded the Warriors 38-35, but had eight offensive boards to the Warriors’ four.
But it was the turnovers more than anything that defined why the Warriors, despite always being close, were never actually closing. They opened the game with nine turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 22, tied for their second-worst mark on the season (with their 122-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies exactly a month ago).
Draymond Green turned it over five times, Marqueese Chriss and Eric Paschall turned it over thrice, and four Warriors (Andrew Wiggins, Alen Smailagic, Jordan Poole and Jeremy Pargo) turned it over twice.
If not for Pargo (more on him below), Wiggins, and the fact that the Suns were also terrible (just not Warriors-level terrible), it would have been even more of a mess.
Alen Smailagic had a hapless night, Poole’s start at point guard was less than inspiring (had 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting with 3 assists and two turnovers), Ky Bowman and Zach Norvell were impact-less in their 12 combined minutes, and Juan Toscano-Anderson, who still showed flashes of athleticism and potential wing upside, struggled to hold onto the ball.
The positives: It was Jeremy Pargo’clock… and more Wiggins
The great part about the Warriors’ bizarre, flier-obsessed roster, is that you get things like what happened on Wednesday, when the 33-year-old Jeremy Pargo, who, just last Saturday, got his first NBA appearance since 2013, went off. Pargo was the Warriors’ sparkplug off the bench and provided scoring and life when the game was fully disjointed.
He scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and went 3-of-5 from 3-pt range (despite being a 32.2 percent 3-pt shooter in the G-League). He cooled off a bit to end the third quarter and to begin the fourth, and somehow fouled five times, but he was energetic for a team that was lacking in that department.
The other standouts were Chriss and Andrew Wiggins.
Green had those five turnovers and one of his classic not-full-forced Draymond game lines (6 points on 2-of-5 shooting, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and a steal). He was alright, and both Damion Lee (10 points on 4-of-10 shooting with late, deep 3-pt misses, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals) and Eric Paschall (12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers) had solid nights.
Chriss played sloppy at the costliest of times, but had another stellar rim-running night with 18 points (7-of-11), 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.
Wiggins, though, was the star, yet again. If you saw only the box scores, it would be easy to say it’s similar to those nights where D’Angelo Russell stuffed the stat sheet and the Warriors were lambasted on the court.
But it doesn’t feel anywhere near as hopeless. If the Warriors weren’t so happy to turn the ball over, they probably would have won this game. The Suns seemed happy enough to let them continue to creep back in.
And there was Wiggins, playing tremendous on-ball defense and well above-average (at least for his concerning standard) off-ball defense. He had his 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting (3-of-4 from 3-pt and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line), but it was that defense that was so encouraging. In addition to his 4 rebounds and 5 assists, Wiggins had a pair of steals and 4 blocked shots (a combined 7 between him and Chriss), frequently stifling the admittedly less-than-spectacular Suns.
Again, it’s hard to suddenly be hyper-optimistic about this season and Wiggins when he’s not playing with Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson and there aren’t any stakes. But man has he done near everything the Warriors have hoped for in these first three games.
Devin Booker might get his All-Star nod
The Warriors’ longest road-winning streak, of nine-straight games in Phoenix, came to an end in large part due to Devin Booker (plus the four other double-digit scorers for the Suns, including 12 for the briefly-sidelined Elie Okobo off the bench).
He matched Wiggins’ 27 on an inefficient shooting night (8-of-22, 2-of-8 from three), but was perfect from the line (9-of-9) and nailed those free throws when they mattered. It was very James Harden-esque in how he drew fouls and converted opportunites. He also had 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, a block and 5 turnovers.
Booker, despite averaging 22.2 points a game for his career and 26.4 per game (10th in NBA) this season on 49.9 percent shooting heading into Wednesday night, has never made an All-Star roster, and wasn’t selected this year.
That seems like it’s about to change, as Damian Lillard announced he wouldn’t be playing in the All-Star game due to a groin issue. He all but demanded for Booker to take his place.
Damian Lillard says he will not compete in All-Star game or 3 pt. Contest because of groin injury. Says he hopes somebody deserving like Devin Booker replaces him.
— Jason Quick (@jwquick) February 13, 2020