PHOENIX – No matter how you feel about which direction the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors are headed after Wednesday’s result, a 130-119 win for Phoenix will make it nine out of 10 times for a top team to beat a top player.
The beauty of the reigning champion Warriors is that they usually have both. But that was not the case on Wednesday.
Stephen Curry scored the 11th 50-game season-high 50 points of his Hall of Fame career, but Phoenix’s 21-40 (52.5%) 3-point shooting night and a great collective effort never let Wednesday’s game matter. A ball game.
Chris Paul (right heel soreness) and Cam Johnson (knee) are out, but Phoenix isn’t looking at two starters as part of a team.
The Suns got 106 points from five starters in double figures. That included Cam Payne’s career-high 29 points, 27 points from Devin Booker, 23 points from Michael Bridges, 14 points from Deandre Ayton and an additional 13 points from Torey Craig. She had 29 of the Suns’ 33 assists.
“That’s the kind of basketball we want to play,” Booker said of the assists. “The ball doesn’t stick (and) the ball moves faster than the people.”
Filling the stat sheet didn’t stop there. Booker added nine assists and tied a career-high three blocks. Bridges dished out a career-high nine assists and grabbed nine rebounds. Craig’s 10 rebounds gave him his 10th career double-double.
Golden State’s (6-9) starting five entered Wednesday as its only positive outside of individuals, outscoring teams by 24.0 points per 100 possessions in 151 minutes. The lineup’s net rating against the Suns (9-5) was -9.4 in 11 minutes Wednesday.
Turnovers were 26-17 in Phoenix’s favor, and head coach Monty Williams highlighted his group’s rebounding effort to cut offensive rebounds from 17 in Monday’s loss to the Miami Heat to six against the Warriors.
“We spread the ball around and knocked down some shots, which helps,” Williams said. “It allows us to set up our defense, which allows us to get into better rebounding position.”
Golden State’s woes were well represented in the first half, thanks to Curry dropping 31 points and allowing 72 to the Suns after seven points. While the Warriors pointed to the Suns’ hot shooting of 10-for-19 (52.6%) from the range, almost every look was good at the orderly flow of the offense that gave their defense the freedom.
Curry’s 30-point first half joins Booker, Kobe Bryant, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid and James Harden as the sixth player to reach that mark at the Footprint Center since Stathead’s data began tracking halfway through the 1996-97 season.
It was context for how rare that kind of first-half performance is, no less than 10-of-13 shooting, but the Warriors still trailed.
The Suns’ relentless efforts to contain Ayton deep into the third quarter didn’t reward them.
Ayton’s touch shots didn’t fall to the tune of 2-of-6 from the field with two turnovers. He was sticking to his hook shots and foulway jumpers moving in the opposite direction of contact, and on his final attempt of the quarter, Ayton had a mismatch with Curry and elected to go for the same hook shot without attempting to claim it. More forward space. It didn’t go down, and Suns fans in the arena groaned en masse while calling for seven feet to be more aggressive.
It’s the latest in a string of breakout performances for Ayton over the last six games (12.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 55.6 FG%). Even a strong stretch in the third quarter of Monday’s loss to Miami couldn’t be sustained in crunch time.
Fortunately for the Suns, they quickly regained the game’s waning energy and momentum thanks to a terrific layup from reserve center Jock Landale at 3:44. He had two points and two blocks throughout a crucial 13-6 run that doubled the Suns’ lead from seven points to 14.
Jock brings up the eraser again and runs the floor for a slam pic.twitter.com/BRkT0Kq6gP
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Warriors head coach Steve Kerr saw enough from his core group and sat all five starters early in the fourth quarter. Booker remained in reserve for more than two minutes before Williams decided he wasn’t going to buy himself any more wiggle room after an 8-2 Warriors surge. Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins would soon return to replace Golden State’s starter with 10 and eight minutes remaining with Phoenix.
By then Craig and Ayton had returned. If you paid close enough attention, it highlighted the stark difference in how these two teams approach the regular season.
Curry also joined the fray, but that unit lacked juice. Booker could see the Suns’ lead grow as he took a break before checking back in with a 14-point Suns edge at 5:41, effectively ending the game.
Bridges finished with 42 minutes, Booker 37, and Curry (36) and Wiggins (32) were the only Warriors north of 30.
Curry was 17-for-28 overall, 7-of-11 from deep and 9-for-9 at the foul stripe, with nine rebounds, six assists and three turnovers. He was -14. (Don’t trust +/- every time!)
Klay Thompson’s 19 points made him the only Warrior to reach 15 and shoot 6-for-17.
Phoenix was 21-of-25 at the foul line after posting a 2-for-4 mark in Miami. Booker said it was a bit intentional and 9-for-9 on his own.