EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix’s shooting neutralizes Curry’s 50-piece for Warriors in Suns win

Nov 17, 2022, 12:19 AM

PHOENIX — No matter how you feel about what direction the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors are heading in after Wednesday’s result, a 130-119 win for Phoenix, the better team is going to beat the better player nine times out of 10.

The beauty of the defending champion Warriors is they usually have both. But that was not the case on Wednesday.

Stephen Curry scored a season-high 50 points, the 11th 50-piece of his Hall of Fame career, but Phoenix’s scorching 3-point shooting night of 21-for-40 (52.5%) and superior collective effort never let Wednesday’s contest be much of a ball game.

Chris Paul (right heel soreness) and Cam Johnson (knee) remained out, but Phoenix didn’t look the part of a team down two starters.

The Suns got a remarkable 106 points from their five starters who were all in double figures. That included a career-high 29 points for Cam Payne, 27 from Devin Booker, 23 out of Mikal Bridges, 14 via Deandre Ayton and an additional 13 Torrey Craig points. They also had 29 of the Suns’ 33 assists.

“That’s the type of basketball that we want to play,” Booker said of the assists. “The ball doesn’t stick (and) the ball moves faster than people.”

The stuffing of the stat sheet didn’t stop there. Booker added nine assists and tied a career high of three blocks. Bridges dished out a career-high nine assists and grabbed nine rebounds. Craig’s 10 rebounds gave him his 10th career double-double.

Golden State’s (6-9) starting five entered Wednesday as its only glowing positive outside of individuals, with it outscoring teams by 24.0 points per 100 possessions in 151 minutes. The net rating for the lineup against the Suns (9-5) was -9.4 in 11 minutes on Wednesday.

Points off turnovers were 26-17 in favor Phoenix and head coach Monty Williams highlighted his group’s rebounding effort to cut down offensive rebounds from 17 in Monday’s loss to the Miami Heat to six versus the Warriors.

“Obviously we spread the ball around and knocked down some shots and that helps,” Williams said. “It allows us to set our defense and that allows us to have better rebounding position.”

Golden State’s problems represented themselves fairly well in a first half that Curry dropped 31 points in only to trail by seven thanks to allowing 72 to the Suns. While the Warriors will point to the Suns’ hot shooting of 10-for-19 (52.6%) at range, nearly all of those looks were good ones in the systematic flow of the offense that their defense granted the freedom to.

Curry’s 30-point first half had him join Booker, Kobe Bryant, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid and James Harden as the sixth player to reach that mark in Footprint Center since Stathead’s data began tracking halves in the 1996-97 season.

That’s the context on how rare a first half performance like that is, and on 10-of-13 shooting no less, but the Warriors still trailed.

Inside the third quarter was a persistent effort from the Suns to get Ayton involved, one he did not reward them for.

Ayton’s touch shots weren’t falling to the tune of 2-of-6 from the field with two turnovers. He was sticking to his hook shots and fallaway jumpers that drift in the opposite direction of contact, and on his last attempt of the quarter, Ayton had a mismatch on Curry and elected to go to that same hook shot that didn’t try to claim any more forward space. It did not go down, and the Suns fans in the arena collectively groaned while calling out for the seven-footer to be more aggressive.

It’s the latest string of detached Ayton performances in the last six games (12.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 55.6 FG%). Even a strong stretch in the third quarter of a loss to Miami on Monday couldn’t be sustained during crunch time.

Fortunately for the Suns, the game’s murky energy and momentum was quickly repossessed by them thanks to a terrific closing 3:44 out of reserve center Jock Landale. He had two points and two blocks across a crucial 13-6 run that doubled the Suns’ advantage from seven points to 14.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had seen enough out of his core group and sat all five starters for the beginning of the fourth quarter. Booker remained in with the reserves for a little over two minutes before Williams decided he wasn’t going to afford any more wiggle room after an 8-2 Warriors spurt and re-inserted Payne and Bridges to give Booker his last rest. Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins would come back in shortly later to put a Golden State starter in with Phoenix up 10 and eight minutes remaining.

By then, both Craig and Ayton returned too. If you were paying attention enough, it spotlighted the stark difference in how these two teams approach the regular season.

Curry joined the fray as well but that unit just didn’t have any juice. Booker was able to see the Suns’ lead grow as he rested before checking back in at 5:41 left with a 14-point Suns edge, the game effectively wrapped up.

Bridges wound up at 42 minutes and Booker 37 while Curry (36) and Wiggins (32) were the only Warriors to go north of 30.

Curry’s shooting line of 17-for-28 overall, 7-of-11 from deep and 9-for-9 at the foul stripe was accompanied by nine rebounds, six assists and three turnovers. He was -14. (Don’t believe that +/- every time!)

Klay Thompson’s 19 points made him the only other Warrior to reach at least 15 and he shot 6-for-17.

Phoenix was 21-of-25 at the foul line after posting a 2-for-4 number in Miami. Booker said that was a bit intentional and he was 9-for-9 on his own.

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