OAKLAND – The Warriors reacted to this victory without even a modicum of celebration. Even in triumph, they rather scolded themselves.
And rightly so, since their performance in a 133-120 outlasting of the pesky Phoenix Suns on Sunday looked not at all like the blueprint the Warriors have drawn up for themselves.
They’ve designed their roster around having the offense follow the lead of the defense. The defense on this night, with two brief but significant exceptions, provided no direction or even influence. So the offense came up with season-highs for points (133) and points in a half (71 in the second).
“If you’re trying to win a championship, you don’t do that by simply outscoring people,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said
“Today was one of those games where it’s like . . . it’s a letdown game,” forward Draymond Green said.
“That’s human nature to try and make excuses for what you shouldn’t focus on this or focus on that,” Stephen Curry said. “We have to kind of overcome that.”
Yet the Warriors still won, following a 27-9 closing burst to put away a Suns team that for most of the night did a wonderful job of fighting through fatigue resulting from having completed a game 22 hours earlier in Phoenix.
“Give the Suns credit; they are a well-coached and very young and talented team,” Thompson said. "But if we want to get where we need to go, we have to pick it up on that side of the ball.”
The second half featured a couple defensive highlights that – even on a night when Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Curry combine for 89 points – provided graphic illustration of the importance of that element for the Warriors.
One, there was the third-quarter sequence with Durant chasing down Suns guard Devin Booker for a spectacular block at the rim, sending a jolt of electricity through Oracle Arena and leading directly to a Curry 3-pointer in transition.
There was another Durant block, this time of Suns guard Eric Bledsoe with the Warriors up 126-117 and 1:46 remaining in the game that pretty much put Phoenix to sleep.
“There was a point when we made a couple stops,” Curry said. “Draymond got really aggressive on the ball, Pat (McCaw) and KD made those blocks that got the crowd into it and got us easy transition buckets.
“We showed we obviously have the right personnel and matchups to get stops, but we didn’t start the game off that way.”
Even as the Warriors blocked seven shots, with Durant, Green and McCaw each rejecting two, the Suns kept coming. They shot at least 50 percent in every quarter against a Warriors defense that generally was lackadaisical and often without effective communication.
It wasn’t enough to negate the offense supplied by Curry, Thompson and Durant. Curry and Thompson each totaled 30 points, and Durant finished with 29. The offense combined with just enough defense, at precisely the right moments, to power the Warriors to their fourth consecutive win – and their franchise-best ninth consecutive win over the Suns.
All of which provided a little more than relief to a Warriors team that had to come back from a five-point deficit (111-106) with 6:15 remaining.
“Good way to close, but a lot to work on defensively,” Kerr said.
“Honestly, I think this was our first game day at home without a shootaround, so it’s different from our routine,” Curry said. “Maybe our engines weren’t revved up enough before the game.
“It was a good learning experience, because it won’t be the last time.”