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Suns Strokes: Defense craters as Warriors get to 17-0

PHOENIX — “They shoot threes like layups.”

In five simple words, Suns forward Markieff Morris encapsulated his team’s 135-116 loss to the 17-0 Warriors on Friday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Golden State knocked down 22 from deep for the game and broke an NBA record for most made in a half with 15 during the first two quarters.  Reigning MVP Stephen Curry spearheaded the effort hitting 9-of-16 threes on his way to 41 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Curry set the tone in the opening 12 minutes, connecting on 5-of-6 behind the arc as the Warriors jumped out to a 44-27 lead. It was the most points Phoenix has given up in a quarter this season and the 75 at halftime was the most for a half.

Going into this season, the Suns wanted to make defense their calling card. It was hammered home during training camp and has been a constant theme throughout the 7-9 start. It hasn’t met expectations to this point.

Phoenix has dropped all the way to 20th in NBA.com’s defensive rating statistic (points per 100 possessions), and despite the obvious caveat of the competition they played on Friday, head coach Jeff Hornacek wasn’t going to give his team a pass.

“We just need to refocus our defense,” said Hornacek. “I think our guys have gotten to the point where they’re just trying to score and not worrying about the other end and we’ve given up a lot of points during this stretch. We got to win games with our defense. Our offense will get enough points. A team like that, who is undefeated world champs, you’ve go to make things tough for them. We didn’t do that. Their shots were pretty much wide open.”

While Golden State was crisp and fluid within their offensive sets, the Suns were a step slow and out of position. When a defense is playing together it’s often described as being on a “string.” Phoenix’s string was cut and shredded.

“You’ve got to give them credit. They still got to put it in the hole, but our defense wasn’t there putting any pressure on them,” Hornacek continued. “We were never up into anybody. We were always one arm length away and that’s what they want. I don’t care about the rules if you can’t touch guys, you better get up on these guys. Let the referees call foul after foul, after foul, after foul, you can’t stop just because they called a couple of fouls. They played a great game.”

The Warriors might make threes like layups, but the Suns weren’t able to find a way to make those layups more difficult.

THE GOOD

-Suns forward T.J. Warren scored a career-high 28 points in 35 minutes off the bench. Warren made 12-of-16 shots, including 2-of-3 from three. He also added six rebounds.

-Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe combined to score 42 points, 21 apiece, on 32 shots. Against a non-flame throwing backcourt that’s probably enough to give you at least a chance to win.

THE BAD

-Suns center Tyson Chandler left with a right hamstring strain. His status going forward is questionable without any further details yet available.

-Golden State shot 56.8% from the field.

-The Warriors led by as many as 26 and the Suns never had the lead.

-Draymond Green had a triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists picking apart the Phoenix defense from all different angles.

HE SAID IT

“We definitely had a bunch of bad turnovers, myself too. A team like that you really can’t make any mistakes. They turn turnovers into threes, and they were just on tonight.” –Markieff Morris, talking about how the Suns need to be less careless with the ball

NOTED

-Former Suns guard Leandro Barbosa put up a season-high 21 points against his former team on 8-9 shooting. He made all five threes he attempted.

UP NEXT

The Suns head out on their longest road trip of the year. The six-game trek begins Sunday afternoon against the Raptors in Toronto. Phoenix also plays the Nets, Pistons, Wizards, Grizzlies and Bulls before returning home.

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