The Warriors’ and Suns’ first meeting of the season on Tuesday night played up to the billing, despite being as ugly, sloppy, and turnover-filled as expected.
In the Western Conference, they are among the top two teams. To be more precise, these are the top two teams in the whole NBA right now.
The quality of the two teams this season ensured that Tuesday night’s game will go down in history regardless of the final score.
This was the first time both teams had played at least 20 games and both were riding seven-game winning streaks.
The Warriors’ seven-game victory streak came to an end with a 104-96 loss in Phoenix, while the Suns extended their win streak to 17 games following a No-Loss November.
Draymond Green wasn’t himself and over-passed, Kevon Looney couldn’t keep up with Deandre Ayton and the Suns’ height advantage, and Steph Curry shot a career-worst 0-for-12 from the field.
The Warriors’ next game is on Friday at Chase Center, so even a defeat like this has its redeeming features.
That being said, here are four reasons for hope following a defeat that clearly rankled the Warriors.
The Arrival of Jordan Poole
The third year player has proven he can be a scoring catalyst for the Warriors all season long. He’s got 30 or more points three times already this season, and he’s got 20 or more in eight tournaments. Poole scored a tonne of points as Curry was cold as ice.
Poole’s hot shooting started right away, as he scored 16 points in the first quarter on 4 of 5 3-point attempts. Despite experiencing back spasms, Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins still managed to score six points in the opening quarter, good for second most on the team. To put it plainly, Curry did not do well.
Even though Poole scored a game-high 28 points, his performance was about much more than just scoring. Midway through the third quarter, he displayed his whole arsenal by making a 3-pointer while being guarded by JaVale McGee, then following that up with a block on the rim and a sweet throw to Gary Payton II for a slam.
Poole showed he is not nervous in the least about performing on a national scale, despite committing 4 turnovers and finishing with a minus-9 plus/minus.
This is Ottomatic Porter, Jr.
Poole requested help, and Otto Porter Jr. volunteered to give it to him. The veteran wing scored 16 points in 30 minutes off the bench to rank second in scoring for the Warriors. After a slow start to the second quarter, Porter helped keep the Warriors in the game by scoring 9 of Golden State’s 19 points.
After missing all of his shots in the third, Porter scored four in the final period.
Porter’s scoring average in the Warriors’ last two games is higher than it has been at any point since he signed with Golden State.
He also contributed to the Suns’ cause by grabbing six boards and dishing out three assists. Porter was ready to fire away from deep and, when healthy, will be a tremendous weapon off the bench.
In Phoenix, he posted a plus-10 rating, second only to Payton’s plus-17 in another strong performance defensively and offensively.
A Fight For The Comeback
The Suns entered this much-anticipated matchup confident that they could utilise the Warriors’ lack of height and length against them, and for the most part, that was the case. Ayton not only scored 24 points, but also grabbed a career-high 11 boards.
McGee scored eight points off the bench, while Jae Crowder scored 14 and 6 for the energy.
On the other hand, the Warriors won the battle for second chances, 51–35. They pulled down 36 defensive boards compared to the Suns’ 27, and 15 offensive boards to Phoenix’s 8. To put it another way, the Suns only outscored the Warriors in the paint by a slim margin of 4 points.
It was the difference in turnovers. The Warriors’ poor ball security all game led to 23 turnovers, while the Suns only committed 13. In the Suns’ eight-point victory over the Warriors, 19 of their points came as a result of the home team’s miscues.
It’s as simple as that: that won’t work.
The greatest marksman in the history of the game has never been worse. Literally.
During the loss, Curry scored 12 points, matching his season low. He shot 3-14 from long range and 4-21 overall. That’s the poorest shooting efficiency of his NBA career while attempting 20 shots or more. He was a minus-17 and contributed only two assists and three rebounds.
Where Then is the Better Part of this Equation?
It was easy to see that coach Monty Williams had devised a shrewd game plan, and his player, Mikal Bridges, performed an outstanding job of guarding Curry. However, Curry did get the shots he usually gets, he just missed.
When asked how his Suns have been slowing Curry, Williams said in the fourth quarter, “He’s missed shots.” We put in a lot of work on him, yet he keeps missing our shots. There’s no letup in our efforts for him.
How frequently is Steph going to miss his shot attempts? Could he often fail to make easy baskets (such as layups or 3-pointers)? That’s really improbable.
The Warriors have given up 104, 106, and 104 points in their three losses thus far this year. Neither the lack of protection nor the difficulty of getting Steph to pose for photos was a problem.
The Warriors deteriorated into sloppiness when he made a mistake. Having a normal night for Curry isn’t the sole solution, but it will help.
The Warriors and Suns will face each other twice more this month, once on this coming Friday and again on Christmas. It will be fascinating to observe how they adapt to one another game by game in what may be a preview of the Western Conference Finals.