For how ugly, sloppy and turnover-filled the Warriors' first battle this season with the Phoenix Suns was Tuesday night, it certainly lived up to the hype. These are the best two teams in the Western Conference. Scratch that, these are the two best teams in the entire NBA right now.
Tuesday night's matchup made history before tipoff for how good the two squads have been this season. It was the first time that both teams entered with a winning percentage of at least .850 and both had a winning streak of at least seven games while already playing at least 20 games. Following a 104-96 loss in Phoenix, the Warriors' seven-game win streak came to an end and the Suns ran their win streak up to 17 straight games after a No-Loss November.
Steph Curry was historically bad shooting from the field, Draymond Green wasn't himself and was over-passing and Kevon Looney was overpowered by Deandre Ayton and the Suns' size advantage. Still, there's some good to take from a loss like this, especially knowing the Warriors' next game is against the same opponent this upcoming Friday at Chase Center.
With that being said, here are four reasons for optimism after a loss that certainly doesn't sit well with Golden State.
Jordan Poole Came To Play
All throughout Poole's third season as a pro, he has proven he can be a scoring spark for the Warriors. He already has scored at least 30 points three times this season, and at least 20 points on eight occasions. With Curry going ice cold, Poole put up points in bunches.
It started early and often for Poole, putting up 16 points in the first quarter while going 4-for-5 from long distance. Andrew Wiggins, who was dealing with back spasms, had the second-most points for the Warriors in the first period with six. Curry scored just three points.
Poole finished the night with a game-high 28 points, but his play was about more than just scoring. About midway through the third quarter, his full arsenal was on display when he nailed a 3-pointer with JaVale McGee guarding him and then followed that up with a block at the rim and sweet dish to Gary Payton II for a dunk.
Though he had four turnovers and was a minus-9 in plus-minus, Poole proved he isn't afraid of the big stage by any means.
Ottomatic Porter Jr.
Poole needed some help, and Otto Porter Jr. was there for him. The veteran wing was the Warriors' second-leading scorer with 16 points in 30 minutes off the bench. As the Warriors' offense stagnated in the second quarter, Porter was there to keep them alive and scored nine of Golden State's 19 points in the second frame.
Porter then didn't shoot the ball once in the third quarter before scoring four points in the fourth.
In the Warriors' last two games, Porter has scored his most points since signing with Golden State. He also added six rebounds and three assists against the Suns. Porter was ready to fire away from deep, and when healthy, will be a big weapon off the bench.
His plus-10 in Phoenix was second to only Payton, who was plus-17 in another strong showing on both sides of the ball.
Going into this highly-anticipated showdown, the Suns felt they could use their size advantage against the Warriors, and for the most part, that wound up being true. Ayton scored a season-high 24 points and also hauled in 11 rebounds. McGee had eight points off the bench and power forward Jae Crowder put up 14 and six.
However, the Warriors won the rebound battle 51-35. They had 36 defensive rebounds to the Suns' 27, and 15 offensive rebounds compared to eight for Phoenix. The Suns scored just four more points in the paint than the Warriors.
The difference was turnovers. All night long, the Warriors couldn't hold onto the ball and wound up giving it up 23 times to the Suns' 13. The Suns scored 19 points off turnovers in an eight-point Warriors loss.
That's just not a winning formula, simple as that.
The greatest shooter the game has ever seen has never been worse. Literally.
Curry tied his season-low with just 12 points in the loss. He went 3-for-14 from long distance and 4-for-21 overall. That's his worst shooting performance in his NBA career when taking at least 20 shots. He also only added two assists and three rebounds and was a minus-17.
So, where's the good part?
Mikal Bridges did an exceptional job guarding Curry and the coach Monty Williams clearly had a smart game plan. At the same time, Curry did get the shots he usually gets, he just missed -- as odd as that might sound.
"He's missed shots," Williams said during the fourth quarter when asked how his Suns were stopping Curry. "We do our best on him, but he's just missed shots. We have to continue to do a good job on him."
How often is Steph going to be a negative shooting the ball? Will he really miss open 3s and layups on a regular basis? It sure isn't likely.
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In the Warriors' three losses this season, they have allowed 104, 106 and 104 points. The defense wasn't the problem, and neither was getting Steph open shots. He missed and the Warriors got sloppy. There are ways to fix that, including just a normal night for Curry.
The Warriors and Suns play each other twice more this month -- once this upcoming Friday and also on Christmas. In what could be a Western Conference Finals preview, it will be incredibly interesting to see how they adjust to each other, game by game.