PHOENIX — For another example of why the Suns have overachieved this season, head to the third quarter of the Phoenix Suns’ 122-109 win against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
The Suns’ offense was clicking in the first half, the defense left something to be desired and the turnover woes simply needed less bone-headedness.
As the game wore on, the small size of the Warriors’ frontline began to show. Without the injured Andrew Bogut and David Lee, the Golden State frontline included Jermaine O’Neal, Draymond Green and, often times, small forward Harrison Barnes.
Phoenix pulled away by beating the ball into the post, and the main recipient of paint touches was Channing Frye. He fared well scoring against Green and Barnes, who were leading the Golden State second unit. Frye finished with five assists and 13 points.
But it was Goran Dragic’s show throughout. He finished with 34 points and 10 assists by hitting 10-of-13 shots and 6-of-7 three-pointers, a few of which came in spectacular fashion. One came on a broken play early in the second half, when the Slovenian’s bad pass was recovered and dribbled around on the right wing before he chucked it in at the buzzer. Another came over the outstretched arms of Andre Iguodala, a sign that this was Dragic’s night to break his team’s two-game losing streak.
Balance was a staple of both teams in the first half, when Phoenix led 63-59. They remained even in their shooting and limited one another from chucking too many threes. Had the Suns not allowed Curry to start rolling with a couple triples in the second quarter, they would have been sitting pretty. But how many games go by where Curry doesn’t slip away from the defense for one shot that seems to open the floor gates?
Despite 11 first-half turnovers, the lead was a good thing, and a cleaned up start to the second half gave the Suns a lead as big as 14 thanks to a bail-out three-pointer by Dragic, an emphasis on getting Green to free himself by curling around screen an a defensive effort that took away Golden State’s air-space.
Later in the third, the Suns put Frye at the center and ran the offense through him quite effectively. It gave a glimpse of why Phoenix inquired about Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph, as USA Today’s Sam Amick reported on Friday – if you don’t want to click, the Grizzlies don’t have Randolph on the trade block.
Which team will win the battle beyond the arc?
The Suns didn’t find much resistance from beyond the arc, hitting 8-of-16 through three quarters and 11-of-21 overall. On the other side of the coin, they did handle close-outs much better than the last two games and other than the easier-said-than-done defense on pick-and-rolls, faired well against Curry.
Golden State finished 8-of-25, for 32 percent shooting from deep against the second-best three-point shooting team that averaged 38 percent coming in to Saturday. And at the end of it all, Curry had only gone 3-of-10 from deep.
Can Phoenix keep Golden State out of the paint?
It helped that both Bogut and Lee were out, and after halftime, the Suns clamped down on dribble-drives. They allowed 42 points in the paint and scored 40 themselves, but the difference came on the perimeter, where Phoenix out-splashed Golden State.
Will Gerald Green find his form?
The shooting guard scored 25 points and hit 10-of-15 shot attempts, all but four of which were from two-point range.
Green scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half, and it helped that Golden State began the game with Klay Thompson shadowing Dragic. That put Curry on Green, and his disinterest in locking in on Dragic as Dragic did on him allowed both of Phoenix’s backcourt players to get rolling.
Green hit his only three-point attempt in the first half, and interestingly enough it ended Curry’s hot streak. After hitting two jumpers, Dragic ran Curry off the line, and a missed contested layup led to Curry pouting while both of the Suns guards leaked out, allowing Green an open three-point attempt.