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Warriors vs. Suns Watch Guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

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Warriors vs. Suns Watch Guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

With 17 consecutive victories over the Suns, the Warriors have a compelling reason to make it 18 when the teams meet Friday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports begins at 5:00 p.m. with Warriors Pregame, followed by tipoff from Talking Stick Resort Arena at 6:00 p.m. Warriors Postgame follows the telecast.

Among the goals of the Warriors (38-15) is to post the NBA’s best record, thereby earning the No. 1 overall seed throughout the postseason. The Western Conference leaders are two games behind the Bucks, who lead the Eastern Conference.

But the race to the top of East got more treacherous this week, with the Raptors, 76ers and Bucks making significant trades bound to tighten the race over the final two months of the season.

[RELATED: Curry, Kerr unfazed by trade deadline arms race in East]

The Suns (11-45), meanwhile, are in tank mode, competing with the Knicks in a race to the bottom, both teams hoping to parlay that into improved position for the June draft.

Put simply, the Warriors and Suns both have incentive -- to proceed in completely opposite directions.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors

F Kevin Durant
F Draymond Green
C DeMarcus Cousins
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Suns

F Mikal Bridges
F Dragan Bender
C Deandre Ayton
G Josh Jackson
G Elie Okobo

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: C Damian Jones (left pectoral surgery) is listed as out.

Suns: SG Devin Booker (right hamstring tightness), G De’Anthony Melton (right ankle sprain) and F T.J. Warren (right ankle soreness) are listed as out.

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: Coach Steve Kerr said Friday morning that he has no plans to rest anyone, which suggests he’ll stay with his nine-man rotation, with F/G Andre Iguodala, PG Shaun Livingston, C/F Kevon Looney and F Alfonzo McKinnie.

That said, it’s also likely that PF Jonas Jerebko could get minutes.

PG Quinn Cook is in the throes of his worst shooting slump since he came to the Warriors before last season. He is 4-of-29 from deep over his last 13 games.

Suns: The absence of Warren, the team’s No. 2 scorer, puts a massive void in the Phoenix offense. F Kelly Oubre Jr., acquired from Washington in December provides the best chance to fill it.

Assuming Booker starts for the Suns -- he was a full participant shootaround, Thompson will get the defensive assignment.

Ayton, the No. 1 overall draft pick, is having a fine rookie season, averaging 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds. He’ll make the All-Rookie team, but the Rookie of the Year award already is engraved with the name of Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic.

Officials: Rodney Mott (chief), JT Orr, Leon Wood.

How Warriors winning NBA-record 73 games hurt back-to-back title chances

How Warriors winning NBA-record 73 games hurt back-to-back title chances

The Warriors won an NBA-record 73 games three years ago, but a former team employee believes that historic run actually might have prohibited them from winning back-to-back league championships.

"It probably hurt them in the end because they expended so much physical, mental and emotional energy getting to that state that they may be probably didn't have enough at the end," Lachlan Penfold, Golden State's head of physical performance and sports medicine in that 2015-16 season, said on the latest Habershow Podcast.

Penfold arrived in 2015 as the Warriors were going through a unique coaching transition. Head coach Steve Kerr had back surgery, forcing assistant Luke Walton to take his place for the first 43 games of the season. According to Lachlan, Kerr was in bad shape after the surgery.

"I came over for summer league, and I met him in the hotel -- he was in a fair bit of pain with his sciatica," Penfold said. "He was struggling to walk at times and had to sit down for a bit.

"He came back before training camp, and I sat down with him one time to chat and he could barely even look at me," Penfold added. "He tried to get through training camp, and he couldn't." 

Walton coached historically well in Kerr's absence, going 39-4. Draymond Green and Steph Curry had career years, and Curry became the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. But one Warriors team attribute is what caught Penfold’s eye. 

"One of the things that I think made that Warriors team so good that year was their refusal to lose, especially when the odds were against them all,” he said. “You're on the road, you're on your fourth, fifth, sixth game of a road trip. You're playing sh—-y, the refs are against you, the crowd is against you, you're 10 points down in the fourth quarter, let’s just pack it in, we'll save our energy for the next game.

“These guys never did that. They played out every game hard, and that's why they had such a great record."

In an effort to keep the Warriors fresh, Penfold advocated for player rest, even talking to Kerr in an attempt to convince the coach to rest his stars for a deep playoff run. Penfold’s pleas didn't work. 

"I had some conversations with Steve at the time,” he said, “and eventually, Steve and [Warriors general manager] Bob [Myers] put it to the players, 'Do you want to go after the record or not, because this is your chance at a record.' And some players did, some didn't, but the majority did, and if you're going after the record, you probably need to play your better players.

“I felt like we needed to rest some of the players. It's interesting: If we had of rested them and they lost some more games and maybe didn't get the record, I don't think there would've been that emotional pressure throughout that postseason and Finals.”

Penfold’s fears ultimately came true. Not only did the team lose Curry for six playoff games with ankle and knee injuries, the team blew a 3-1 NBA Finals lead to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Penfold believes the Warriors ultimately learned from the experience.

[RELATED: Six Warriors storylines to watch in 2019-20 season]

"You look at the Warriors now, and they've never gone close to that record because I think they realized the pitfalls of chasing it and what it can do on the back end,” he said.

You can listen to the Habershow Podcast episode with Penfold right here. 

Warriors' Steph Curry ranked No. 31 player in NBA five years from now

Warriors' Steph Curry ranked No. 31 player in NBA five years from now

Steph Curry has been one of the best players in the NBA for more than half a decade now. 

He's the only player in league history to be named unanimous MVP, has been an All-Star six years in a row,and has posted the three highest scoring averages of his career outside of that unanimous MVP season in each of the last three years, with the numbers increasing each year.

Curry. LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Kawhi Leonard. James Harden. Anthony Davis. Giannis Antetokounmpo. If you were to ask a random person off the street to rank the top five players in the game today, chances are they would all come from that list of names.

But what about the best players in the game five years from now? Will Curry maintain his lofty place among the top NBA superstars?

This week, the NBA team at NBC Sports has been counting down its list of who it projects to be the 50 best players in the NBA five years from now in the summer of 2024. Age, potential, injury history and other factors all were taken into account, and the projections have Curry lower than you might expect.

NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh certainly feels that way, being of the opinion that Curry's No. 31 ranking is too low for the greatest shooter in the history of the sport.

"Did I miss something?" Haberstroh questioned. "I feel like the best shooter ever deserves a higher spot on this list. If you don’t think his superhuman ability to score from far away places won’t age well, consider the careers of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen, the only two players who have made more 3-pointers than Curry has in this league. Miller was starting playoff games at age 39. Allen was starting Finals games at age 38. Oh, and Steve Nash was an All-Star two weeks after his 38th birthday."

For reference, Curry will be 36 in the summer of 2024.

"Curry’s ranking suggests he’s at the tail end of his career," Haberstroh continued, "but he just increased his scoring average for the second consecutive season, averaging 27.3 points per game with pristine efficiency. After raising his scoring average to 28.2 points per game this postseason, there’s no signs of decline."

So why No. 31? What factor is holding Curry back from being ranked higher?

Haberstroh concedes that it's certainly possible Curry's injury history could rear its ugly head at some point, but even if that were to occur, he still thinks Curry is being underrated.

"OK, the ankles," Haberstroh wrote. "Yes, the ankles. There’s reason to worry that Curry’s wheels will deflate faster than the average NBA player, but even if Curry moves off the ball and becomes more of a spot-up shooter, I still think he’d stretch defenses to near half court. We’ve never seen a player like Curry who can launch from just about anywhere with the ball in his hands. 

"But even if he can’t terrorize defenses with his lightning-quick handles and crab-like lateral movement, he’ll still impact the game at a high level simply by standing there beyond the arc. Just ask Miller, Allen and Nash about how that gravitational pull ages."

[RELATED: Curry cements himself as leader for social justice in NBA]

Curry underrated? Some things never change ...