In hindsight, the first quarter between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns told us everything we needed to know. Steph Curry went ballistic, with a patented Curry Flurry. The team was lively and clearly playing hard. And the defense decided to hibernate after about three interesting minutes.
Curry scored 17 points and only missed one shot. And the Warriors were losing when the buzzer rang.
That ended up being the whole game. The next 36 minutes of action followed exactly the same blueprint. Curry plays like an MVP. Everyone else plays with energy, but forgets how to play defensively.
And the Suns win.
The Dubs gave up another 70 points in the first half, which has become the norm for them. Curry’s offense, some big shots from Andrew Wiggins and some buckets from the bench saw the Warriors put up some nice numbers, but they couldn’t resist letting Phoenix do the same. And so they trailed 72-65 at the halfway point.
Our hopes and prayers for Warriors to appear in the third quarter were met with crickets. The Warriors played an uninspired ball to start the third quarter, with turnover after turnover leading to easy buckets for the Suns, who lacked star point guard Chris Paul.
Phoenix’s lead grew further and further away, trailing Golden State by 14 points going into the final frame.
Through it all, Curry continued to make his case as the best player in the NBA. He never took his foot off the gas, scored anywhere on the pitch and in every way. And he also continued to show his frustration at the team’s inability to meet him there, when he suffered another unusual technical foul when he hit the ball into the stands.
Two days after a mild offensive performance as he let his teammates take over, Curry dropped 50 points against the Suns, on blistering efficiency: 17-for-28 shooting, 7-for-11 threes and 9-for-9 free throws . He added a team-high 9 rebounds and finished the highlight show with 6 assists.
But he left the field with about two minutes remaining and the game decided. The Warriors lost 130-119 and are now an unthinkable 0-8 on the road.
Wiggins finished with an efficient 14 points, but didn’t contribute much elsewhere, with only 2 rebounds, 1 assist and mediocre defense. Draymond Green had a few highlights, finishing with 9 points, 8 assists and 3 steals, without missing a shot, but right now he’s quarterback for poor defense and deserves a lot of that blame.
Klay Thompson had another rough night, but stayed on the field in garbage time to smooth out some wrinkles and find a little rhythm. He finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists on 6-for-17 shooting.
The bench struggled mightily, finishing with only 17 points. Jordan Poole had 8 assists, but did not score a field goal. JaMychal Green played with all sorts of energy, but only shot 1-for-7. Donte DiVincenzo was only slightly better, going 2-for-7.
But the story was the defense, or lack thereof. Even without Paul and starting forward Cameron Johnson, the Suns scored at will, losing 30 or more points in each of the first three quarters. Devin Booker, Cameron Payne and Mikal Bridges all surpassed the 20-point mark on stellar efficiency, and former warrior Damion Lee hit a pair of dagger threes in response to the rare moments when the Dubs showed life in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors are now 6-9, which is definitely not fun. But they return to the only place they know how to win on Friday when they host the New York Knicks.