The Warriors entered Sunday night’s contest against the Phoenix Suns with a two-and-half game lead over the team from the desert in the Western Conference standings and a head of steam after Friday’s blowout win over the Atlanta Hawks. But in the first half, the Warriors looked much more like the team gasping for breath in the tough Western Conference playoff race.
Then came the third quarter.
David Lee and Klay Thompson took over the game on both ends of the floor. Lee poured in 10 points and snatched six defensive rebounds. Thompson hit went 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and added two other buckets for a perfect 5-for-5 shooting in the quarter. And the Warriors turned a 61-56 halftime deficit into a 94-78 lead — a lead they never relinquished. Golden State’s victory was by the final score of 113-107.
It was just the sort of heavyweight bout-of-a-game we’ve come to expect from the Warriors, particularly at Oracle.
After the game, Mark Jackson sang Lee’s praises. “He put pressure on the defense, rebounded and had multiple effort plays defending the pick-and-roll. He was all over the court. Big-time energy and effort.”
There were some nervous moments even before the game started when coach Jackson announced that Steph Curry was dealing with a tight right quad muscle and would see limited action. Curry apparently felt soreness at the end of last Wednesday’s game against the Celtics in Boston. Curry did start tonight’s game but he looked a bit compromised, particularly when trying to contain Goran Dragic. The Suns’ guard ran circles around the Warriors in the first quarter, with six points and four assists. With the defense drawn to Dragic, Suns’ shooting guard Gerald Green was free to shoot at will. He added nine in the first quarter.
Golden State clawed their back into game in the second quarter with Draymond Green smothering Dragic and Harrison Barnes working both ends of the court. Barnes’ three-pointer with 2:25 left in the half — only the second three-pointer of the game for the Dubs — pulled them with in two and energized the team and the crowd. It was just the spark the Warriors needed to turn things around in the third.
With Lee and Thompson dominating the Suns in the third quarter, Oracle roared to life. So did Curry, with crisp passes and ball handling that were MIA in the first half. He had six assists to go with five points, including his only three pointer of the game. Overall, Curry shot only 7-for-16 with several air balls, perhaps the result of the quad strain limiting his range.
The Suns made it interesting in the fourth quarter when they narrowed Warriors’ lead to just four points with 40 seconds left in the game. And the Warriors made it interesting by missing six consecutive free throws in the last four minutes. But Andre Iguodala grabbed a huge rebound with time winding down to seal the victory.
David Lee summed it up after the game: “We had a sloppy first half. I thought they played harder than we did. We talked about it at half time and we wanted to play our style of play, win or lose, and I thought we did that.”
— “I always tell coach I’m fine. He always asks me if something’s going on, whether it was my ankle back in the day or something small like this. I’m surprised he still asks me because he already knows the answer,” Curry said. “I just let him know I felt good and just having fun chasing Dragic on the screen and rolls.”
— David Lee on Stephen Curry: “He’s one of the best teammates in the league.”
— This was Golden State’s 40th win of the season. Only 10 more to 50.
Warriors now 16 games over .500 for first time since April 12, 2008, when they beat the Clippers to raise their record to 48-32.
— Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) March 10, 2014
— The Warriors ended their season series with Suns tied 2-2. The home team won all four games.
— Jermaine O’Neal played eight minutes, his shortest on-court stint of the season.
— The Warriors are 9-2 since the all star break.
— This was the team’s 10th double-digit comeback win of the season.
— The only teams with 20 home and 20 road victories: Oklahoma City, San Antonio and … Golden State.