Each game grows in significance this time of year. The Warriors entering Monday night’s contest with the Phoenix Suns having lost the previous three matchups. They did not lose the fourth.
With a 123-112 win that was brilliant at times and sketchy at others, Golden State won an all-important home game to slide back into the fifth seed before what could be a brutal five-game road stretch.
Warriors blitz the Suns to start
The notion of the Warriors getting off to a hot start had begun to feel preposterous.
In their last 12 games, Golden State had a -107 margin in the first quarter, and had fallen into double-digit deficit in most of those games.
On Monday, though, they were off to a scorching start.
Klay Thompson looked like he was in for one of those nights, taking early heat checks and looking like every shot he took would drop.
He opened with a quick 8 points and a 13-4 start. There was proactive cutting from the offense and an infectious level of confidence.
The first quarter finished with a 43-21 Warriors lead. Thompson had 33 first-half points (8-of-12 from three). He ended it with this outrageous three that snapped a late second quarter skid.
He cooled off precipitously in the second half, but just about singlehandedly gave them a cushion.
Overcoming a sketchy third with outrageous three-point shooting
Thompson, after 33 first half points, was silent in the third. He missed a couple free throws — was 1-for-4 at the line — was 0-for-3 from the field, and didn’t score again until the fourth.
His disappearance for a quarter was an issue, but far more problematic was Golden State’s defense and the way Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton got going.
In the third, Phoenix started setting high screens for Booker, and he killed the Warriors, especially from the mid range, regardless of the frequent defensive pressure in his face.
Ayton and Booker presented questions that the Warriors did not have answers to.
After an extremely slow start, Ayton started to get the better of Kevon Looney, and abused the Warriors’ switches to put smaller defenders on him. Booker got up to a 9-for-13 shooting mark, beating just about everything thrown at him.
An 8-0 run by the Suns early in the third made things dicey. A lead that was as high as 25 points got down to a three-point margin.
Eventually, that margin ballooned again when Jordan Poole — who was out of control for so much of the game, started to hit shots.
He connected on a three late in the third that gave Golden State a nine-point lead, and started to run the offense more patiently in the half court in the fourth.
Despite an impressive effort from Booker with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting (no threes, 8-of-10 from FT line) and a couple steals, Ayton (27 points, 12 rebounds) imposed himself less and Phoenix didn’t have anything else to offer offensively. The Warriors got their swagger back in the fourth, driving the lane, moving the ball and creating open shots.
Thompson (38 points, 14-of-23, 8-of-14 from three), Curry (23 points, 7-of-13, 4-of-6 from three), Poole (20 points, 8-of-16, 4-of-8 from three) combined for 71 points.
They led a three-point shooting effort that blew Phoenix out of the water:
- Warriors: 19-of-39 from three
- Suns: 4-of-21 from three
Even with a worrisome stretch of defense, that sort of shooting will overwhelmingly secure wins. It’s also worth mentioning that aside from that third, Draymond Green (three blocks, a couple steals) and Kevon Looney (9 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, one block, one steal) will overwhelmingly solid.
JaMychal Green and late-game shenanigans
There have been long stretches when JaMychal Green has been dreadful, looking like a shell of his former self.
In recent games, though, he’s looked athletic and more intentional. He’s been flying in for rebounds and providing some fairly consistent scoring off the bench.
On Monday, he had 9 points, 7 rebounds, a couple steals, a block, an assist and a turnover with three fouls.
One of those fouls came very late, when there was a pretty funny scuffle between him and former Warrior Damion Lee.
Both players needed to be separated after a couple of possessions going back and forht.
On the first drive, Green shoved Lee and both were jawing their way down the court. On the other end of the floor, Lee drove, got fouled in the back from Green, and shoved Moses Moody down as he was on his way to the rim.
As Lee walked past Green, he pushed him in the back of the head and a huddle had to separate Green from Lee. Both got technicals, and a game that had already been decided concluded with some head-scratching, but nevertheless entertaining nonsense.