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Warriors shocked by extremely shorthanded Suns in Curry’s return

It was supposed to be arguably the easiest win of the year. Turns out, it was arguably the worst loss.

Golden State was shocked at home on Tuesday by a Suns team with just nine players and missing nearly their entire starting lineup. The Warriors made a late push to avoid total embarrassment, but barely, losing 125-113 to a Pheonix team that entered losing nine of their last 10.

A home-stand that began 5-0 finishes at 5-3 with this loss following bad ones to the Pistons and Magic. Now the Warriors go on the road for five games where they have been the worst team in the NBA.

Here are three takeaways:

Worst loss of the year?

The Pheonix Suns were without Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne. Put another way, they were without five of their six best players. Mikal Bridges was the lone available starter.

Golden State, meanwhile, was the healthiest they’ve been in months, and entered as a double-digit favorite. This should have been a cake walk. Just look at these respective starting lineups.

Instead, the Warriors played like they expected the Suns to roll over. They turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. They gave up a whopping 20 offensive rebounds. They couldn’t put the ball in the basket, shooting 38 percent from the field while often launching contested jumpers due to a lack of ball movement.

Andrew Wiggins was particularly rusty offensively, scoring 10 points in 29 minutes. Adding insult to injury, former Warrior Damion Lee torched Golden State with 22 off the bench, and looked a heck of a lot better than just all of the Warriors’ reserves.

The Warriors energy overall was lacking, resembling a team on the back-end of a back-to-back, as opposed to a team that just had two days off. Even things as simple as closing out on shooters and stopping drives on the defensive end seemed like a chore.

To Golden State’s credit they didn’t give up, making a push at the end of the third and into the fourth, largely thanks to Jordan Poole, Curry and newfound defensive effort. They eventually cut a 25 point deficit to six. But the fourth quarter performance almost made the loss worse in a way, revealing that had the Warriors showed that effort throughout, they would’ve won the game easily.

The NBA regular season is long, and every team has total no-shows. For a team like the Warriors fighting for a playoff spot, they can’t afford too many more of these.

Curry returns and shakes off some rust

Stephen Curry returned to the lineup on Tuesday, after being out since December 14 with a shoulder issue. He wasn’t much of a factor for the first three quarters, then looked like he might win the game by himself in the fourth.

Wearing a protective wrap on his right arm, Curry was off to start, scoring just 10 points in the first three quarters while going 3-of-10 from the field. Shockingly, he was a team-worst -20 when he was pulled in the third frame.

Then he caught fire in the fourth, scoring 14 in the frame, three deep 3-pointers, and led the Warriors’ comeback.

In a game where it was assumed he’d have a slight minutes restriction, Curry played 31 minutes and looked like the MVP-caliber player he was before the injury by game’s end. That’s a great sign moving forward.

Halfway through the season, is this who the Warriors are?

The 2022-23 season has been an extraordinarily strange one so far for the Golden State Warriors.

So much of the early season struggles were excused by the notion that the young bench needed time to figure things out, yet at the season’s halfway point, it doesn’t seem like they are much closer to doing so.

Jordan Poole, who was supposed to be the most reliable bench piece and was paid handsomely this offseason to be that, has been incredibly uneven. He’s scoring 20 points per game but doing so inefficiently (42 percent, 30 percent from 3). He’s also near the top of the league in turnovers.

James Wiseman’s season has been another disaster so far, one that has seen him play himself back into the G League and now back onto the injured list. Jonathan Kuminga, who has been a bright spot at times, is there also. Moses Moody is currently behind two-way players Anthony Lamb, Ty Jerome and possibly even rookie Patrick Baldwin Jr. in the rotation.

Other early season quirks have continued, like the home-road splits. Their 17 wins at home are tied for the most in the league, their four wins on the road are the least.

Golden State hasn’t really had any major injuries aside from the Curry absence, and they’ve played somewhat consistently with or without him. Consistently mediocre that is, and as hard as it is to believe after last season’s incredible championship, that’s exactly what this team is right now.

 

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