Suns Strokes: Thomas, Green lead rally, hand Warriors first loss
PHOENIX — Led by guards Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green, the Phoenix Suns’ bench dominated the Golden State Warriors on offense and defense in the final 13 minutes to ensure there would be no undefeated NBA teams remaining come Monday morning.
Green and Thomas combined for 35 of the Suns’ final 40 points as Phoenix (4-3) ended a two-game skid and rallied to upend a bruised and weary Warriors team 107-95 Sunday in the third game of their homestand.
The Warriors (5-1) were coming off a win at the Houston Rockets on Saturday and were playing without starting guard Klay Thompson, who was sidelined with a sprained right hand.
“Luckily for us, we were able to at least slow them down in that second half,” said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, noting defense from the starting five paved the way for a fourth-quarter comeback.
“The first group, they started the second half and we couldn’t whittle away too much at (the lead), but I think it set the tone for the rest of the game. When our bench guys came in there, they kept it up.”
The Warriors used a 7-0 run to take a 79-67 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter. But Thomas outscored Golden State on his own the rest of the way with 19 points in the game’s final 13 minutes, and the Suns scored 40 points in that span.
Thomas drew foul after foul in the fourth quarter and connected on 13-of-14 free-throw attempts for the game.
“I would get in the lane and then just make a play,” Thomas said. “Guys were open and they knocked down shots.
“It started on the defensive end, though. We got stops and got out and running.”
The Warriors led most of the way, taking a 58-47 lead into halftime behind guard Stephen Curry’s 22 points, seven assists and four steals.
But the Suns limited Curry to six second-half points and forced 10 turnovers from the fifth-year pro.
“I think the big key is we finally played some defense and got active,” Hornacek said. “They’re on the second game of a back-to-back. They had a tough one last night in Houston. We’ve had that situation.
“We told our team that with our depth, maybe we can wear them out by the end of the game. That’s kind of what happened. They got a little tired at the end and their shots were a little short, but a lot of that is because we played good defense.”
Hornacek stuck with a trio of bench players — Thomas, Green and forward P.J. Tucker — for the entire fourth quarter, and left starting guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe on the bench.
“We were getting good shots, and I kept telling guys, ‘Let’s just stay comfortable. You’ve got to shoot it with confidence, like you’re going to make it,'” Thomas said.
“Gerald got going and Marcus (Morris) hit a few shots. P.J. was doing what he does. It was a good game.”
Tucker’s defense helped set up the Suns’ offense. His block of guard Leandro Barbosa’s layup attempt led to a transition 3-point basket by Green that pulled the Suns even with Golden State at 80-80 with 10 minutes left and brought the crowd to its feet.
The Suns took the lead for good when Thomas knocked down a pair of free throws to give Phoenix an 87-86 edge with 6:15 to play.
Dragic was relegated to the bench in the fourth quarter, but he was the Suns’ first-half MVP, scoring 13 first-quarter points en route to a 19-point night.
The Suns caused 26 Golden State turnovers, including 13 in the game’s first 16 minutes.
Marcus Morris was the more active Morris twin Sunday with a 17-point, nine-rebound evening. His 3-pointer, which was set up by a Thomas steal from Curry, put the Suns ahead 100-89 with 3:40 to play.
The Suns won the battle on the glass, out-rebounding the Warriors by a 39-36 margin and 9-3 on the offensive glass.
The Suns had plenty of turnovers of their own Sunday, coughing it up a total of 19 times.
Golden State had plenty of open looks from 3-point range, connecting on 11-of-24 attempts for the game. Curry was 4-for-10 from beyond the arc.
Hornacek picked up a technical foul just 3:33 into the first quarter. The second-year Suns coach appeared exasperated with the officials for most of the first half.
STAT OF THE GAME
0.9: The Suns got Curry into foul trouble in a hurry in the final minute of the third quarter, drawing two fouls off the guard in under a second. As a result, Curry entered the fourth quarter with four fouls.
HE SAID IT
“Isaiah is a smart player. He’s herky-jerky. In a way, he’s just like Curry.” -Hornacek
Rookie forward T.J. Warren saw his first action of the regular season when he checked in to the Suns lineup with just over a minute to play. Warren, the No. 14 overall pick in the 2014 draft, had missed the Suns’ first six games of the season with a cracked bone in his left thumb.
Barbosa made his first start of the season for Golden State in place of guard Thompson. “The Brazilian Blur” averaged 12.4 points per game and shot 39.6 percent from 3-point range as a member of the Suns from 2003-10 and 2013-14, but he was a thorn in the Suns’ side for much of Sunday, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
First-year Warriors head coach Steve Kerr made his return the Phoenix on Sunday. Kerr, the Suns’ general manager from 2007-10, helped lead the Arizona Wildcats to their first-ever Final Four appearance in 1988 before playing 16 NBA seasons and winning a combined five championships with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs. Kerr was selected by the Suns in the second round of the 1988 NBA Draft but played just one season in Phoenix.
Former Suns coach Alvin Gentry also made his return to Phoenix in his first season as an assistant to Kerr. Gentry coached the Suns as an assistant from 2003-09 and assumed head coaching duties from 2009-13, leading the Suns to the 2010 Western Conference Final.
The Warriors fans who infiltrated US Airways Center got a brief “let’s go Warriors” chant going late in the second quarter, followed by boos from Suns fans in an effort to shout them down. On the plus side, many Golden State fans trickled out of the arena a few minutes early.
Warriors center David Lee missed his fifth game of the season with a strained left hamstring.
The Suns have two days off before they play the fourth game in their five-game homestand Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. with the pregame show beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.