OAKLAND -- The Warriors looked like the champions they are in a 20-point thrashing of the Phoenix Suns on Monday. Nothing is better for a team’s peace of mind than a blowout at home.
Here are two positives and two negatives culled from the easiest win of this season:
Jones passes another test
The biggest question entering the season for the Warriors was related to Damian Jones. Is a 23-year-old center that had never started an NBA game ready for a full-time role with the league’s elite team?
Four games in, and against impressive competition, Jones generally has been good. Not exceptional, but nothing less than satisfactory.
The 7-footer finished with 13 points (5-of-5 from the field, 3-of-5 from the line), four rebounds and one block.
Going against Suns big man Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Jones made an early statement with 9 points (4-of-4 from the field), four rebounds and a block in the first six minutes.
“This is why we have to have Damian,” coach Steve Kerr said. “If you think of the past week: Steven Adams, (Rudy) Gobert, (Nikola) Jokic and now Ayton. You have to have that kind of size to deal with the position.
“Now there will be smaller matchups as well. But he passed this week’s tests with flying colors.”
The Warriors took control early, going up nine (32-23) after one quarter. It was in the second quarter, though, that they really took off.
Klay Thompson scored 11 points and Stephen Curry 10 as the Warriors demolished any and all semblance of Suns defense, shooting 73.7 percent and going 4-of-5 on shots beyond the arc.
What was the key? The Warriors defended well enough to disrupt Phoenix’s offense, getting three steals and blocking a pair of shots to help post a 9-0 advantage in fast-break points for the quarter.
The Warriors won the quarter, 38-24. Moreover, they posted their only double-digit advantage in 16 quarters this season. Not bad for a team on the second night of a back-to-back set.
Thompson’s search continues
Klay Thompson is one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history, coming off a season in which he posted career-high accuracy. He’s one of three players to have made more than 250 triples in multiple seasons.
He made one Monday night. He missed five.
In four games this season, Thompson is 3-of-22 beyond the arc.
Most of his misses have been short. Some have been rushed. But an inordinate amount of his shots from deep have been on relatively clean looks.
Thompson is the only person not named Stephen Curry to make at least 200 3-pointers in six consecutive seasons. He’s a certified specialist. He’s going to keep shooting them, as he should, because they’re going to start dropping. Probably soon.
Backing away from the glass
Rebounding has not been a source of strength in recent seasons, but the Warriors through the first three games did a decent job. They opened the game as if they were determined to make a point on the glass.
They did. Outrebounding the Suns 17-6 in the first quarter, the Warriors piled up 15 fast-break points in the first 12 minutes.
And then, they simply started backing away. The Warriors were outrebounded 8-6 in the second quarter, 14-5 in the third and 17-12 in the fourth. They went from plus-11 in the first quarter to minus-5 for the game.
The most aggressive rebounder was Alfonzo McKinnie, who attacks everything visible to the naked eye. He grabbed a team-high seven in 18 minutes.
No one else had more than five. Part of the reason for the diminishing hunger is, of course, that the Warriors never seemed to be threatened. Cruising is not, however, a habit they want to develop.
How did they get away with it? By forcing 21 Phoenix turnovers (off which they scored 29 points), outshooting the Suns 51.1 percent to 45.3 percent and outscoring them 42-27 from beyond the arc.