A disappearing act in the third quarter bit the Suns in a 113-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, but missed opportunities became the theme of the day. Having the offense operating well through a half and the defense stymieing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Phoenix seemed in solid shape for a good portion of the game.
But then, the Oracle Arena magic caught up to the Suns.
Thompson and forward David Lee started hitting, the crowd’s energy spun up the pace, and before you could say “splash,” Phoenix found itself trailing by double-digits and losing the third quarter 38-17. The third quarter included a 16-0 burst by the Warriors, 13 points from Klay Thompson — he finished with 22 — and 10 more from Lee.
While some of those 38 points came from beyond the arc, 22 came in the paint. Meanwhile, the Suns could only score four points in the paint.
The Suns, as usual, didn’t fold and were within four points during the final minutes. Stagnant offense and a lack of execution became a pain for Jeff Hornacek’s squad, which was given plenty of opportunity with four missed Golden State foul shots in the final minute. Guard Gerald Green stepped out of bounds curling around a screen out of an inbounds play, summing up the Suns’ night of missed opportunities from both the micro and macro perspectives.
Phoenix fell to ninth place in the Western Conference standings considering its 36-26 record is the same as the Memphis Grizzlies, who hold the tiebreaker. More painfully, the Suns tied Golden State with a 2-2 record in the teams’ the season series.
Goran Dragic added 24 points and six dimes for the Suns, but after a strong effort from the starting backcourt, Phoenix didn’t get much production. Green led the way with 25, Channing Frye scored 16 and P.J. Tucker led the team with nine rebounds, yet the Warriors’ bench ended up winning the day.
Draymond Green and Co. set deadly screens allowing Thompson to find open shots and Curry to squeak away from the Phoenix defense. Mark Jackson’s second unit also held Suns bench force Markieff Morris to 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting — the energy the twins have brought in the past just wasn’t there Sunday, even if they did combine for 21 points, about the season average for the duo.
On to the pregame questions from Dave Dulberg.
Eric Bledsoe is ready, but are the Suns?
The Eric Bledsoe return, be it against the Clippers on Monday or Cavs on Wednesday, will shake up the Suns’ rotation. It’s expected Bledsoe is slowly brought along and starts his post-injury play as a member of the second unit, but how will that change Hornacek’s other guards?
While nobody is going on the same hot take that’s hit Russell Westbrook’s return to the Thunder (in short, some question if the addition of an All-Star hurts) it is a wonder if Gerald Green or Ish Smith could take a big hit in playing time or confidence. Here’s one more reasonable guess: Green is conscious of making a case for his starting shooting guard minutes being a long-term responsibility.
Green led Phoenix with 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting to continue his hotstreak.
Smith, meanwhile, continued to contribute. On Sunday, his most notable moment came in freezing Stephen Curry with his patented look-away hesitation move, but Smith also played with a crunch-time unit of Dragic, Channing Frye, Marcus Morris and Green.
Can the Suns hold Stephen Curry under 16 assists?
Curry wasn’t especially on, but he did his usual damage in the passing game. Last time the Suns visited Oakland, Curry put up a triple-double that included career assist and rebounding numbers.
He finished with 18 points and nine assists on 7-of-16 shooting on Sunday. Six of his assists came during the crucial third quarter.
Will Miles Plumlee give it a go, and if so how effective will he be?
Plumlee made a return to the court but came off the bench to spell rookie Alex Len. Either his knee brace or the knee appeared to keep Plumlee from being his usual, springy self. He looked a bit slow moving laterally, forcing Hornacek to go with Shavlik Randolph in the second half.
Len scored three points, all on foul shots, and grabbed three rebounds. He also blocked a shot and had a few offensive bat-outs go un-tabulated on the stat sheet.