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What we learned as Steph leads Dubs to Christmas Day win

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Steph scoring

A big game, on Christmas Day, with a shorthanded roster and everybody watching. And you’re on the road against the only team with a better record.  

The challenge for the Warriors on Saturday was immense, and they thrived in the element.

Stephen Curry, who only two days ago acknowledged his struggles in Christmas Day games, scored a game-high 33 points in a 116-107 victory over the Suns at Footprint Center in Phoenix.

A tight game for the duration, the Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter on the shooting of Otto Porter Jr., who produced a season-high 19 points in the win.

The Warriors (27-6) closed it out with a 7-0 over the final three minutes, which lifted them back above the Suns (26-6) into first place in the Western Conference.

Porter fills void

Andrew Wiggins, Golden State’s No. 2 scorer was sidelined, confined to COVID-related health and safety protocols. As was Jordan Poole, the team’s No. 3 scorer, who scorched the Suns for 28 points on Nov. 29 in Phoenix.

The Warriors needed a couple role players to lift their games to the moment, to bring elevated defensive energy and find a few additional buckets.

Gary Payton II, starting for Poole, provided, scoring 14 points to post his second consecutive game with double-figure scoring.

But it was Porter, whose 3-ball has been reliable most of the season, working from deep and in midrange that made a huge difference. Starting for Wiggins for the second straight, Porter’s 13 fourth-quarter points were enormous – and enough to keep the stubborn Suns at bay.

 

On a day when the Warriors desperately needed another scorer, he answered the call.

Blasting out with a vengeance

The Warriors’ top priority in this game was clear: Make an immediate statement by starting fast.

Mission accomplished.

Green and Curry opened the scoring by draining back-to-back 3-pointers in the first 53 seconds for a quick 6-0 lead. Riding Green’s intensity and Curry’s shooting, the Warriors led throughout, going up as many as 10 before a late Phoenix surge.

Still, Golden State took a 33-27 lead into the second quarter.

The Warriors were efficient (one turnover in the first 11 minutes), crisp on offense (10 assists, 13 baskets) and active on defense (five steals, two blocks). They dictated the action, which has to be the goal in such games.

Kuminga makes an impact

Though Jonathan Kuminga is only 19 years old and has been in the NBA for two months, he looks more and more like someone in is mid-20s, with four or five seasons in the league.

Kuminga’s development is coming along at such an alarming rate that coach Steve Kerr did not hesitate to put the rookie on the floor in the fourth quarter of a close game against Golden State’s closest competition.

Kuminga’s impetuous reverse layup in traffic, giving the Warriors a seven-point lead with 6:46 remaining, made enough of an impression that Suns coach Monty Williams immediately signaled for a timeout.

Kuminga scored 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting, including 1-of-1 from distance, in 21 minutes.