© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
You can feel how close we are to the playoffs. Tuesday night was as prime an example as we’ll get. The Warriors, competing to retain the eighth spot and have an easier shot to make it through the play-in gauntlet, faced a visibly bothered Phoenix Suns team coming off a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was feisty, tense, and deeply entertaining, with the Warriors deservedly winning 122-116 thanks to a clutch stretch in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
Well that was feisty
Kent Bazemore seems to be rubbing everyone the wrong way lately. He has an apparent, ongoing feud with Bradley Beal (and his wife?) after jokingly, in perhaps not the best taste, that Beal had to injure himself to keep up with Steph Curry. It turned into a very dumb ordeal, which Bazemore says he’s ignoring.
But he got into it again, this time in person, and with Devin Booker, who seemed to find himself in his fair shares of scuffles with Warriors players. Bazemore nabbed a steal from Booker off an inbounds pass, then dunked it on Jae Crowder and yelled, staring Crowder down, which Booker seemed to take offense with.
Shortly after, Booker got into it with Juan Toscano-Anderson, who is, uh, not exactly the guy you want to get into it with. It was that point that, from an energy perspective, felt significant for the Warriors. They were trailing by 16 points and closed the gap and the finished the second quarter down eight points.
That carried over into the second half. Phoenix hounded Curry constantly to open the game, but the Warriors met that energy and surpassed it.
Absolutely maniacal energy, eventually rewarded
The energy was truly unparalleled. It’s a trope to describe intense, non-playoff games as having “playoff intensity,” but that was absolutely the case in this one. You had Toscano-Anderson almost hip-bumping Booker, waving his arms around to cover off every conceivable angle and providing zero breathing room. He was almost overzealous on Cameron Payne at one point, nearly defending him over the half court line.
And Curry couldn’t move in the first half, as the Suns sent double teams at him the moment he stepped over half court. Meanwhile, Golden State was literally scratching, clawing, diving for every loose ball. It was a relentless pace.
The real difference, and the reason Phoenix retained the lead for most of the contest was some nonsensical three-point shooting, met by putridity behind the arc for the Warriors. But that changed when it mattered.
Late in the fourth, the Warriors hit threes on three-straight possessions; first from Andrew Wiggins, then by Toscano-Anderson, and then by Jordan Poole. But this was all that first guy…
Wiggins keeps the Warriors afloat
This had to have been Andrew Wiggins’ best game as a Warrior. It definitely felt the most consequential, and by far his most omnipresent. It might legitimately be his best game ever in a game with legitimate playoff implications. There are times, and games in which he has spurts, when he looks like he’s going to take over the game, and does it for a quarter. His defense has clearly become much more consistent.
But this was absolutely something else.
When Curry, who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from three (21 points on 7-of-22 and 1-of-11 from three, largely thanks to that hounding defense), it was Wiggins who provided the ridiculous, efficient offense they could not find elsewhere.
He stuck to Booker like glue, pursuing him on every drive into the lane, closing out on threes, and was there in the late fourth. He hit the three to tie the game with 2:58 remaining, which dragged them out of their horrendous three-point shooting slump. And after that Poole three, to give the Warriors a three-point lead, Wiggins drove hard on Deandre Ayton to bolster that lead to five points.
He absolutely carried this team, with 38 points on 17-of-24 shooting, 2-of-6 from three, with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal.
It was Wiggins dominating as a scorer and Draymond Green facilitating and marauding around for an 11-point, 10-rebound, 11-assist triple double with four steals.
Jordan Poole and Kent Bazemore picked up the slack, too, combining for 37 points, and Toscano-Anderson, the absolute maniac he is on the court, had a mini-Draymond night of 7 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and a block. One of those three points was a crucial three and he was robbed by 0.1 seconds of another three, which would have been a dagger.