Suns Nearly Win, Lakers Do. This is Getting Good.

Apr 5, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots under pressure from Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) and forward Matt Barnes (22) in the second quarter at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots under pressure from Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) and forward Matt Barnes (22) in the second quarter at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

If nothing else, tonight’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, the second closest loss to the Warriors this season, is a sign of great things to come.

A night after the Golden State Warriors were able to rest both Steph Curry and Draymond Green in a blowout victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves – additionally keeping Klay Thompson on the bench for just under half of the final stanza – the Phoenix Suns, the West’s worst team by record, kept the Warriors on their heels, and on the court, pressing Golden State until the final few seconds of the game.

As we have discussed many times on Valley of the Suns, and as you have undoubtedly seen personally, the Suns might be losing, but they are not getting blown out. Intentionally short-handed by resting small forward Andre Iguadala and power forward Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors opened tonight’s game with a massive first quarter, led by the unsurprisingly incredible shooting of superstar Steph Curry. Scoring 23 points in the first ten minutes by himself, including 5-8 from three (the Suns made 7 as a team on the night) the Warriors opened up an early 23-point lead, draining the Suns 41-18 at the first horn.

And yet the young, still slow-starting Suns, came roaring back and behind some spectacular offense and suddenly horrid shooting by the Warriors (who shot 5-21 from the field in the quarter for 23.8%) and Phoenix nearly turned the table on outscoring their bay-side opponents 34-17. Opening the period on a 16-4 run, Derrick Jones Jr., Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis each led the Suns scoring with 7 points each in the period, helping Phoenix climb to within six-points at half.

The normally sure-shooting Klay Thompson inadvertently helped the Suns stay in this one with an awful first half overall (6 points on 2-11 from the field), picked up his game a little in the third quarter with 8 points, pushing the Warrior lead back up to 13 as the two teams headed into the fourth quarter.

Whereas both the Warriors and Timberwolves rested their stars in the fourth quarter last night, tonight the Suns forced Curry and Thompson to hang on until the bitter end, willing themselves to a 104-101 deficit with only 5:01 remaining.

As is – this season – expected, the Suns were unable to close this one out as Steph Curry eradicated all Phoenix hopes of an upset guiding Golden State to the win with all seven of his fourth quarter points, and Klay Thompson draining five of his eight fourth quarter points, helping to outscore the Suns 16-10 down the stretch.

For the Warriors the win meant that they not only clinched the top-seed in the Western Conference, but also homecourt advantage throughout the NBA Playoffs. They also won their season-high 13th straight game, and their 11th straight against the Suns overall, while Phoenix lost their franchise record-tying 13th consecutive game.

On the plus-side for the Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs tonight (you read that correctly). Coupled with the Suns loss, the Lakers have separated themselves from Phoenix and are now 1.5 games behind the Suns in the reverse standings for the second most ping pong balls in this summer’s NBA Draft Lottery.

"Reverse StandingsBrooklyn Nets           19-59     –Phoenix Suns             22-57    2.5Los Angeles Lakers  23-55    4Orlando Magic           27-51    8Philadelphia 76ers   28-50    9"

Nearly lost in the shuffle of tonight’s near upset was Alan Williams who prior to tonight’s game was personally awarded the 2017 Dan Majerle Hustle Award by Thunder Dan himself, Big Sauce finished with 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. His first double-double since March 26 at Charlotte, it was also his 15th career double-double, and 11th since the All-Star break.

Jared Dudley came off the bench tying his season-high in scoring with 19 points, draining three three-pointers for the second straight game in a row, the first time he has done so since November 9, 12, and 13. His scoring was not all that was impressive, however. When he gets the playing time, Dudley has a tendency to put together a well-rounded, Boris Diaw-esque game, and tonight finished with 6 assists and 7 boards to go along with his 19 points.

The Suns version of the Splash Brothers, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, scored 21 and 20 points respectively, combing for 15-45 from the field, 4-14 from three, 8 boards, 11 assists, while Booker recorded 3 steals on his own.

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The Golden State version did eventually one-up the Suns with 64 combined points (Steph Curry with 42 points, his second such scoring night in his last three games). Curry drained 8-13 from beyond the arc adding in 11 assists for his eighth double-double of the season. Curry and Thomson were the only Warriors to score in double figures, although Matt Barnes finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds off the bench.

(Russell Westbrook finished one rebound short of an NBA record 42 triple-doubles in one season remaining tied with Oscar Robertson’s record 41 originally set in 1961-62. This means, of course, that Westbrook will next go for the record against the Suns on Friday night in Phoenix).