Preview: Suns (19-11) at Warriors (7-21)

Warriors 132, Suns 127





PHOENIX — I can’t for the life of me figure out how the Golden State Warriors have only won one game for every three they have lost.

This is a very talented team (on paper on the offensive side of the ball at least). Monta Ellis, Anthony Randolph, Stephen Curry, even Corey Maggette. This team can score the basketball.

But basketball is a team game, and the Warriors flat-out suck. If you think the Suns’ 5-8 December has been bad, in Oakland they’re talking about a team that’s lost seven in a row and has suffered through a 1-11 December. Only Minnesota is worse than these Warriors in the West.

Golden State runs more than anybody in the NBA. Its 103.6 pace factor is 4.5 possessions quicker than the next fastest team, and Phoenix ranks fourth at 98.0.

However, the Warriors’ mighty offense has taken a dip, as they rank just No. 22 in offensive efficiency, averaging 101.8 points per 100 possessions (the Suns lead the league at 111.6). Their defense is even worse, yielding 107.9 pp100 (No. 27).

So while this is a very individually talented team, the numbers say as a group they just aren’t getting it done.

Still, former Warrior Jason Richardson knows ORACLE Arena well enough to know that in theory at least this game won’t be easy even if the home team isn’t what it used to be.

“It’s a tough place to win,” said Richardson, who added that every time he returns to Oakland it’s a “special” game for him. “They’ve got a bunch of young guys that are playing with a lot of heart and want to prove something. You’ve got Monta Ellis (25.0 ppg, seventh in the league), who is playing at an All-Star level, so it’s definitely going to be a tough game. It’s not going to be a cakewalk.”

It especially should not be considered a cakewalk with it being a back-to-back situation. The Suns are a woeful 1-5 on back-to-backs, but playing a late game against a weak opponent is relatively easier than the brutal back-to-backs the Suns encountered earlier this season. Plus, it’s hard to use that as an excuse for losing after rested Suns teams lost to Cleveland and Oklahoma City squads that played tough games the night before.

Aiding their cause further, the Suns’ starters played only three quarters on Friday against the Clippers (aside from two minutes of Amare in the fourth) because the game was such a blowout.

“The fact that we got a win and were able to rest those guys for the fourth quarter is really important,” Gentry said. “Obviously (Saturday) it will be a track meet, it will be up and down the court, so the fact that they were able to rest for 12 minutes is pretty important I think.”

After starting out a stellar 8-3 on the road, the Suns have lost six straight away from the 602 in December. Aside from the New York hiccup, the other five teams Phoenix has lost to sport an average record of 21-9 and a combined winning percentage over .700.

Along with the fact that Leandro Barbosa has returned, the Suns are out of excuses for losing road games.

“We know we’ve got to get this one tomorrow night,” Amare Stoudemire said after the Suns beat the Clippers. “We’ve just got to make sure we beat the teams we’re supposed to beat. We’re supposed to win (Saturday), but you never know. You can never underestimate a team.”

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