It’s quite an accomplishment, and one the Phoenix Suns last reached in 2010 when then-head coach Alvin Gentry led a team put together by then-GM Steve Kerr to the Western Conference Finals.
The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since and don’t appear headed towards postseason play this year after losing their second straight and fourth in six games, 98-80 to Golden State, which earned its 50th win of the season.
The Warriors (50-12) are coached by Kerr with Gentry serving as his lead assistant.
Stephen Curry electrified a sold-out US Airways Center on Monday with a game-high 36 points, 25 coming in the second half when he made 9-of-14 field goals, including 6-of-8 three-pointers.
He finished with seven threes, none more impressive than his 24-foot shot from the corner that gave the Warriors their largest lead, 96-73, with 2:57 to play.
Klay Thompson added 25 points, while Draymond Green had 11 points and 10 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season.
In their Los Suns uniforms, the Suns (33-32) put four players in double figures, led by Eric Bledsoe’s 19 points. Brandon Knight chipped in 13 but exited the game with 4:17 remaining in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle. X-rays were negative.
Tied at 46 at halftime, the Warriors outscored the Suns 52-34 in the second half on their way to a fourth straight victory, the NBA’s third-longest active winning streak.
Meanwhile, the loss dropped the Suns a full three games back of Oklahoma City in the race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Cheered during pregame introductions, Markieff Morris gave the fans — those same ones he criticized nine days ago, more to be excited about, hitting a 16-foot fadeaway jump shot for the first points 25 seconds into the game. The 2-0 advantage marked the one and only time the Suns led in the game.
Bledsoe and Knight combined for 25 first-half points on 9-of-16 shooting, including each hitting a pair of threes. Knight had a three-point play and a 28-foot three-pointer for six unanswered points in one 36-second second-quarter stretch before leaving the game two minutes later with a sprained left ankle.
The Suns closed the second quarter on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 46 going into halftime. Eight of the points came on the fast break — a Bledsoe three, T.J. Warren three-point play and Bledsoe layup — for their first fast-break points in their last two games.
Warren tied his career-high with 11 points (also on Nov. 28 at Denver) while playing a career-high 24 minutes. It was his third double-digit scoring game of the season. He has scored at least eight points in five of his last seven games.
Alex Len (10 points, 11 rebounds) returned from a one-game absence due to a right ankle sprain and recorded his 10th double-double of the season and fifth in 10 games since the All-Star break. In the second half of the season, Len is averaging 8.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, and his five double-doubles are the most among first- or second-year NBA players.
Thompson scored seven of the Warriors’ 10 unanswered points to help Golden State take an early 10-2 lead at 9:30 of the first quarter. Thompson ended the opening period with 11 points, hitting four field goals, including two threes. He also had an assist and a blocked shot.
The Warriors needed but one quarter to surpass their season average of 20.8 fast-break points per game. They scored 22 while holding the Suns without a fast-break point. For the game, the Suns were outscored 33-12 in a matchup of the NBA’s top-two fast-break scoring teams.
The Warriors outscored the Suns 30-15 in the third quarter, including a 26-5 run in which all of their points came from three players: Curry (10), Thompson (seven) and Green (six). The run put Golden State ahead 76-57 at the 1:41 mark. If it were not for Brandan Wright’s buzzer-beating layup, the Suns would’ve matched a season-low for third-quarter scoring.
Curry nearly outscored the Suns in the fourth quarter. His 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-5 three-pointers, looked better than the Suns’ 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Curry, who reached 30 points for the 13th time this season, also had two rebounds and two steals in the final period.
STAT OF THE GAME
61: Combined points scored by Curry and Thompson
HE SAID IT
“We made the run there at the end of the second quarter because guys were cutting and moving,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Then, I don’t know if they got tired or something, but we stood around and again did the one-on-one stuff. So we just have to keep drilling like we always do and maybe we need to start showing them tape of other teams. I don’t ever want to do that, but maybe they should see some of that.”
The Suns’ 19 first-quarter points marked the sixth straight opening period of fewer than 25 points.
The Warriors became the second team to reach 50 wins this season after the Atlanta Hawks hit the mark earlier Monday.
The Morris twins surprised fans out on the concourse prior to the game, signing autographs and taking pictures.
Among the faces in the crowd were Tony La Russa and Hall of Fame college basketball coach Bobby Knight, who watched the Diamondbacks play the White Sox in Glendale earlier in the day.
The Suns’ five-game homestand continues with a visit by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Timberwolves won the last meeting, 111-109 on Feb. 20 at Target Center, breaking a three-game winning streak by the Suns who dressed only 10 players in the aftermath of the trade deadline. Kevin Martin led Minnesota with 28 points, while Andrew Wiggins added 20.
The Suns lead the series 2-1 this season.