SAN FRANCISCO — It may be too early in the season to dub the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns rivals, but the first half of their home-and-home matchup this week has presented the Suns as the Warriors’ most formidable foe.
Stymied by the Suns’ defensive length in a 104-96 loss on Tuesday night in Phoenix, Golden State will need to find a way to limit their turnovers, free up Steph Curry and re-ignite an efficient offense that endured its worst performance for Friday’s rematch at Chase Center.
Curry was named Player of the Month for November by the NBA on Thursday, but he sure didn’t look like it Tuesday in Phoenix when he was 4-for-21 (19%) from the field, including 3-of-14 from three. Here’s how Kerr and the Warriors plan to get him back on track.
Easier said than done, but they’ll need to slow down collectively on offense and establish their counters, which should help Curry find a groove against Suns wing Mikal Bridges.
“We were in a rush offensively and a lot of that was because Phoenix played great defense,” coach Steve Kerr said Thursday. “It’s a great film for us to have and a great reminder of why execution is so important. When you play against a great defense, they’re going to take away some of your best stuff. And Phoenix did a good job of that. But you have to respond with a good solid screen, a hard cut, with a counter to what they’re doing.”
The Suns have tons of length and athleticism on defense that closed the passing lanes Draymond Green and others use to find Curry, in particular. Clogged passing lanes not only cut off circulation to Curry, but was the source of the team’s 22 turnovers (compared to Phoenix’s 12).
“Mikal Bridges, defensively, was an animal,” Green said on his podcast, “The Draymond Green Show.” “He was incredible defensively. All their guys are really good defensively as a team, but Mikal Bridges, who is the head of the snake for them, did an incredible job defensively chasing Steph around, being in passing lanes, clogging the lane when he had the opportunity.”
Jordan Poole and Otto provided a needed spark, but outside of those two the Warriors didn’t get enough scoring to be able to survive a game like that from Curry. Andrew Wiggins shot 4-for-12 and looked to be slowed by back spasms on Tuesday.
Poole has been the most consistent second scoring option — he scored 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting with six three-pointers on Tuesday with some room to work.
Porter Jr. got hot from beyond the arc on Tuesday, scoring 16 points with four three-pointers made in a season-high 30 minutes. While Porter Jr. has played limited minutes to start the season, he could play more as his minutes increase gradually — and his time on the floor as a consistent scorer could be key against the Suns.
“He seems to be getting more and more conditioned to be able to play bigger minutes and I’m very comfortable putting him out there in crunch time,” Kerr said. “So it’s a possibility he could play more, but he’s found a really good role here.”
Though their fast pace distinguishes the Warriors’ offense, they played far too rushed on Tuesday and a slower, more thoughtful pace could benefit, too. Damion Lee could see that play out watching on the couch from home during his paternity leave.
“It seemed like we were in a rush a little bit,” Lee said. “Turning the ball over, those were the two takeaways that hurt us. Just take a breath, but being more patient on offense. Defense was really good and we had a chance there with the last couple of minutes of the game despite our turnovers. Just got to take care of the ball, take good shots and have confidence in each other.”
Who’s playing on Friday?
Lee, another scoring threat off the bench, will return for Friday’s game following the birth of his, and wife Sydel Curry-Lee’s son, Daxon Wardell-Xavier Lee, on Nov. 26.
Lee last played on Nov. 24 in the Warriors’ win against the Philadelphia Sixers.
“Doing well, glad to be back and ready to get things on,” Lee said of the family.
Lee was sent to scrimmage with the Santa Cruz Warriors, along with rehabbing Klay Thompson, last week.
“Went down there to get some work in with the guys was good,” Lee said.
Andre Iguodala will miss his eighth straight game with knee soreness, Kerr said. He hasn’t played since the Warriors’ win against Brooklyn on Nov. 16.
Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody won’t be in San Francisco for Friday’s game — both were sent to Santa Cruz for a G-League game.
The Suns will be without star guard Devin Booker on Friday, who sustained a hamstring injury during the first half of Tuesday’s game.
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Author: Shayna Rubin