Following yet another foul to send the Phoenix Suns to the free throw line, Warriors guard Stephen Curry turned, shook his head and let out a sigh as the game, and another chance to establish a win streak, slipped away.
Twenty-four hours after a convincing win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Warriors fell to the Suns, 114-93, Thursday night. Curry had 27 points but not much help.
This has been the overarching trend for the Warriors (10-9) who, as the quarter-mark of the season approaches, have yet to string together three straight wins. So far, they have found things that work — namely, Curry scoring a bunch of points. But to avoid the play-in tournament and cement themselves as a playoff team in the West, they’ll need to figure out how to establish some consistency.
On the second night of a back-to-back set, only Andrew Wiggins (16 points) provided scoring support as the Warriors looked tired, offered little resistance to the Suns’ offense and settled for perimeter jumpers.
“When we’re scattered and we’re just launching without exploring and making the defense work,” said head coach Steve Kerr, “that’s a recipe for a loss.”
With tired legs, Golden State shot 38.8% overall while the Suns (9-8), without Devin Booker (hamstring) shot 46.6% from the field, 53.6% on 2-pointers and went 21-of-23 from the free-throw line.
While these quick turnarounds can be tough, it’s still a disappointing loss against a short-handed Suns team entering the night on a three-game losing streak.
“We have to establish ourselves as a really good defensive team and, until we do, we’re going to be up and down,” Kerr said. “We have to be able to hang our hat on the defensive end of the floor.”
However, defense might not be the problem. Since Draymond Green’s return to the lineup in the fifth game of the season, the Warriors actually ranked 12th in the league in defensive rating. Giving up 114 points in today’s game isn’t as much of an offense as scoring only 93.
At times, the Warriors look connected on offense. Curry is running off screens, Green is firing passes and James Wiseman is finishing lobs with dunks. But just as quickly, the offense can unravel, and they’ll go several minutes without a bucket.
After Eric Paschall’s pullup jumper gave the Warriors their only lead of the game with 9:15 left in the second quarter, they did not score again until the 6:03 mark of the period. The drought allowed the Suns to reclaim the lead by halftime.
During the Suns’ decisive run in the third quarter, the Warriors went more than three minutes in which they scored just two points. Phoenix rattled off 11 straight and took a 12-point lead, which they pushed to 14 by the end of the quarter.
“When the games are in the margins for us,” Curry said, “there seems to be 3- or 4-minute windows when we don’t play with the right intentions.”
In the dynasty days, the Warriors could get away with this and let the inevitable Splash Bros. flurry or Kevin Durant takeover carry them to a win. Now, with Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson on the sideline for the second straight season, that is no longer the case.
Instead, they are hoping for Wiggins to ascend from comfortable role player to fringe All-Star, Wiseman to develop ahead of schedule and for Kelly Oubre Jr. to replace at least a meaningful fraction of Thompson’s production.
But fresh off his best game for the Warriors — 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves — Oubre went 1-for-11 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3-point range against his former team.
Speaking of, the Suns with the win moved into seventh in the West while the Warriors, who were in a tie for fifth Thursday morning, slid to ninth. This is the nature of the Western Conference, where only 1.5 games separate the fourth-place Denver Nuggets and Golden State.
In attempting to predict future success, point differential can be more helpful than wins and losses. In this category, the Warriors with Green have the seventh-best point differential (plus-0.6) in the conference. That would make them the top seed in the play-in tournament should it start today. Not bad for the Warriors, but not where they want to be.
“It gives you a little bit of comfort knowing you can put together a four-game win streak and shoot up the standings,” Curry said. “But you have to be able to focus on each game. For a while we could afford to look big-picture, but I think we all understand that it’s hard to win in this league right now. You have to show up every night.”
That, for the Warriors, has been the tricky part.
Contributed by local news sources