When you’ve beaten an opponent 17 consecutive times, and that opponent on this particular night is ambivalent about winning, it’s easy to cozy up to complacency.
That would explain the performance of the Warriors on Friday night in Phoenix. They showed up expecting to tap dance on the heads of the Suns, only to discover the Suns weren’t in the mood for it.
It took the Warriors about 42 minutes to bring things to their natural order, achieving a 117-107 victory at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Here are some of the positives and negatives from the Warriors’ 11th consecutive road win and their 18th straight victory over the Suns:
Bench brings the energy
The Warriors were off an atrocious start, down by 11 (18-7) six minutes after tipoff and by 17 (26-9) two minutes later. Enter Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, and Jonas Jerebko and, shortly thereafter, Quinn Cook, leaving Kevin Durant as the only starter. That group outscored the Suns 17-5 over the final four minutes – with an 11-0 finish. They did it with defense and hustle. They were playing to win.
The Suns didn’t exactly go away, but they never had another double-digit lead.
Rebounding fundamentals MIA
The total rebounding numbers were just fine, as the Warriors came away with a 49-48 advantage. But they spent way too much time standing flat-footed as various Phoenix players – Kelly Oubre Jr. in particular – ran around or jumped over them for offensive rebounds. The Suns had 14 in the first half but only five in the second half, after the Warriors woke up. That was enough for Phoenix to get up 20 more shots (101-81), resulting in 25 second-chance points.
Being indifferent on the defensive glass a dangerous game to play, and the Warriors got away with it because they were playing a team that made only 40 percent of its second-chance shots.
The return of Santa
The Warriors through most of January did a nice of taking care of the ball, averaging 12.9 turnovers per game. They handed out seven gifts – all by the starters – in the first quarter, giving Phoenix 9 points. They lost dribbles, tried to throw passes through keyholes and generally carried on as if they were scrimmaging at the Y. They eventually got it together somewhat but still finished with 18 turnovers, off which the Suns scored 22 points.
No excuse for most of the giveaways. Just a team believing it could get away with being sloppy – and did.
Boogie takes another step
DeMarcus Cousins had a gloriously mixed bag of an evening, great moments and forgettable sequences in near equal parts. The highs: 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, solid defense on Suns big man Deandre Ayton (after the first quarter) and a season-high 27 minutes – after pleading for more playing time. The lows: Cousins committed four turnovers and Ayton had his way early (12 points, 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter).
This was Cousins’ ninth game. He’s still a work in progress, but he continues to produce during the process.