The Golden State Warriors have been good all season, but on Thursday night they lucked into a win they didn’t deserve. They may want to save some of that luck for the playoffs, because they didn’t need to beat the Suns 107-106 at Oracle on a shot by Harrison Barnes with 0.4 seconds left. But they’ll take it, because like just about everything else that’s happened since Steve Kerr took over, it was fun.
Have the Warriors — who ran their winning streak to 11 — played a worse half of defense this year than the third and fourth quarters against Phoenix? Maybe, but it’s difficult to remember a half in which they surrendered so many layups. Granted, Phoenix made a lot of flashy, difficult-looking shots around the rim. But Golden State cruised in this game almost from the moment they took a 36-22 lead in the second quarter. Their defense at the end of this game was especially bad, thanks in part to Barnes.
(Yes, the hero of this game also failed to make the correct defensive rotations twice at the end of this game. Not helping Andrew Bogut was probably worse from a pure defensive fundamentals outlook, but his late arrival to help Klay Thompson — when Eric Bledsoe made the basket that put Phoenix up 106-105 — made it seem as if the Warriors would lose their third home game of the season.)
The end of this game was pretty hilarious. Guys named T.J. and P.J. scored at will for the Suns. The Warriors batted the ball around like drunk Harlem Globetrotters and ended up with threes by Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry in the final minute. Curry’s three made winning this ragged game seem almost like Divine Right for the Warriors, even though just about everything they did in the second half up to that point was wrong.
Barnes wasn’t supposed to end up with the ball on that inbounds play, but Curry and Thompson were blanketed, and Barnes meandered his way to the hoop like someone rummaging around an unfamiliar, completely dark guest room for a light switch. Luckily for the Warriors (a theme in this game), Archie Goodwin allowed Barnes to drive without much resistance, Bledsoe went for the steal, and the Suns don’t have a healthy rim-protector.
The look on Steve Kerr’s face was priceless. Most of what Kerr does seems straight from the Book of Popovich, but his slightly smug, “This could’ve been a learning moment, but my team is just too damned good” facial expression was straight from the Tao of Phil.
— For the second straight game, the Warriors played poorly for at least a quarter and still ended up beating a Western Conference foe that needed the game much more than Golden State did. Phoenix is now 4.5 games behind Oklahoma City for the No. 8 seed, so their season is effectively over. Not that anyone gave them much of a chance of getting to the playoffs anyway, but they played their asses off in the second half and were beaten in a very odd way.
— The Warriors’ magic number to clinch the NBA’s best record: two
— Curry’s three to put the Warriors up by one with just under 10 seconds left was a wild scene, man.
- Curry’s off-balance runner was so strong that it hit nothing but glass.
- Bogut barely missed a tip-in chance.
- Markieff Morris tipped the rebound toward a few teammates, but Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker fought each other for the ball (the Suns’ desperation was really showing at this point) and it ended up in the hands of Barnes.
- Barnes missed a wild shot attempt near the basket that wasn’t all that different from the one he made to seal the victory.
- Bogut got the rebound off Barnes’ miss and passed it to Thompson.
- Thompson ran back to the three-point line and dished it to Curry, who sank the shot.
That was exhausting to watch, so it’s difficult to imagine the physical and mental toll a sequence like that takes, especially on a fading team like the Suns.
— Curry made six threes in a game (6-for-11) for the 13th time this season.
— James Michael McAdoo scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Kerr might be resting guys and keeping an eye toward the playoffs, but he also brought Curry, Thompson and Bogut off the bench in the fourth quarter. Kerr wants to win these games if possible. Based on recent lineup decisions, Kerr may see McAdoo as a possible contributor (not exactly a force, but someone who can get a few rebounds, block a shot and maybe get a dunk or two) in important situations relatively soon.
— If they win out, the Warriors can still finish with 69 wins. #QuestFor69