Warriors officially have become serious team after vanquishing Suns originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
Though the NBA standings never reflect it, not all wins are equal. Some are blowouts, others soaked in anxiety. They can be exciting or routine, pyrrhic or practically perfect.
Then there are the kind of wins the Warriors earned Saturday night.
Their pulsating 113-112 icing of the Phoenix Suns was no less than a rousing triumph. The Warriors conquered their stubborn “clutch game” demons, buried any lingering pessimism regarding their ability to beat the NBA’s elite and walked off the Chase Center floor with their second signature accomplishment of the season.
“We were due for one of these type games to go our way,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The guys earned it. It didn’t just happen. Steph [Curry] made an incredible shot. Brandin [Podziemski] made a fantastic pass on that play reading Bradley Beal jumping the passing lane and he got it past him.
“Defensively, we battled the whole game.”
With Curry putting on his game-winning-shot cape and a national TV audience looking on, Golden State banished its utterly distasteful sub-.500 record – likely for good.
After three months of wondering if the Warriors would find their way out of the wilderness of insignificance, this is the night they became what they’ve been striving for all along: a serious team.
While winning six of their last seven games and seven of their last 10, the Warriors posted the No. 3 offensive rating (121.1) and the No. 5 defensive rating (111.4), with a 9.7 net rating that ranks as the best in the Western Conference.
“Connectivity,” said Gary Payton, returning after missing five weeks with a hamstring strain. “We kind of got away from that a little bit, and that was our word this summer. We’re starting to feel it and understand what we’ve got to do to keep going back-to-back, keep getting stops over and over again. I think we’re heading the right way before the break.”
This was the kind of test the Warriors needed to pass to provide firm evidence of their rise. The Suns have the NBA’s top scoring trio: Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. They had won 12 of their last 15 games, with eight by at least 10 points. During that span, they had the league’s No. 2 offense, No. 8 defense and the best net rating in the West.
Yet the teams never were more than seven points apart. There were 22 lead changes, including 10 in a third quarter during which Golden State’s mettle was on full display. Phoenix was limited to 9-of-24 shooting, with Beal, Booker and Durant going 5 of 16.
Beating the Suns, as they did, getting key stops, with Curry scoring a team-high 30 points and draining a 29-foot game-winner with 0.7 seconds remaining, confirms that the faltering Warriors of the first three months have been replaced by a group more consistently submitting evidence of quality hoops.
“Steph has hit several shots like that down the stretch this year, and we haven’t been able to close it out on the defensive end,” Draymond Green said. “It’s very important to get those stops down the stretch and close the game out. Also coming back off the road, we built some momentum on the road, so you want to make sure that you come back and take care of the ones at home that you can.”
Green, with 15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and an overload of initiative, has been the catalyst. He’s bringing his typical zest but not allowing it to boil over.
“He’s given us a lift every game since he’s been back,” Curry said.
The Warriors’ first signature accomplishment this season was on Dec. 19, also on national TV, an overtime win over the Boston Celtics at Chase. That was the third of five consecutive wins that put them one game over .500. They thought they were onto something.
They were not. They lost eight of the 11 games and haven’t reached .500 again until Saturday night.
This time, it feels different.
The Warriors (25-25) are back to .500, but they’re playing appreciably better now than at any time this season. They’re defending smarter, with elevated passion and purpose. They look like a team that knows what it’s trying to do and is more determined to do it.
The Warriors have evolved into a team worthy of a playoff berth. The hard part comes in maintaining the level to get there.
Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast
This embedded content is not available in your region.