OAKLAND -- The Warriors entered Monday with a 2-1 record they felt was tainted by performances below their standard.
They weren’t happy with their relatively poor 3-point shooting, aside from Stephen Curry.
They were displeased with their poor ball movement, resulting in low assist totals.
And they really, really, really were disappointed with the high amount of fouls they were committing.
None of the three was an issue Monday night, when the Warriors rolled to a 123-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
“That looked like our team,” coach Steve Kerr said.
The essential element was the reduction in fouls. The Warriors were whistled for a season-low 24 fouls, only 10 of which came as they took command in the first half.
“We understand what the keys to our success are, and when we don’t do them we make the game extremely tough and give the other team life,” Stephen Curry said. “It started as a better flow to the game in the first quarter because we didn’t foul.
“Whether they made or missed, we were getting the ball and running. We called some plays and we executed, but the game just had a better flow. All those things combined helped us to get out to that big lead.”
All the fouling in previous games -- the Warriors were whistled 81 times in the first three games -- led to a procession of opponents strolling to the free throw line, slowing the action and keeping the Warriors out of their devastating transition game.
“Part of the reason we don’t want to foul is that we want to get out in transition and run,” Kerr said. “That’s where our 3s come into play. They go hand-in-hand. For the most part, we did a really good job of defending without fouling, keeping the game flowing and getting out into the open court.”
As a result of the fouling, the Warriors often were jacking up 3s in half-court sets, sometimes in isolation, a style that Kerr generally detests. They were 24-of-74 from deep (32.4 percent) in the first three games. Curry was 16-of-34, his teammates 8-of-40.
The Warriors, beyond Curry, would like to shoot a few more triples -- and certainly make a higher percentage.
They achieved both on Monday. The Warriors were 14-of-37 (37.8 percent) from deep, and an impressive 13-of-30 (43.3) through three quarters, when the regulars were on the court.
“If you think about some of the shots we’ve had from the 3-point line in the first three games, aside from my off-the-dribble stuff, they were tougher shots,” Curry said. “I would say 33 of the 37 [on Monday] were great looks. If you can create those over time and guys continue to build their rhythm, our percentages will go up and it’ll be the threat that we want it to be.”
When they weren’t creating open shots in transition, they were doing it with ball movement. The Warriors totaled a season-high 35 assists, 24 in the first half and 31 coming in the first three quarters. Draymond Green and Curry had eight assists each, and four others had at least three.
“We definitely made progress,” Curry said.
Well, yes, they did. That it came against the Suns, a team not expected to be in the playoff race, is irrelevant. When the Warriors run into problems, it’s usually of their own making.
Which is to say the solutions have to come from within, and they made considerable strides in that regard Monday night.