The Golden State Warriors picked up their 30th win of the season Saturday night far sooner than most figured before the year tipped off.
Despite trailing at the half and looking as though they took Phoenix a bit lightly, the Warriors downed the Phoenix Suns by a final of 113-93. Golden State turned a four-point deficit at intermission into a seven-point lead by the end of the third quarter thanks to strong defense and one of Harrison Barnes’ strongest efforts of the year.
Barnes shot nine of 11 from the field and finished with 21 points, including a handful of impressive buckets in the second half, as Golden State asserted itself by outscoring Phoenix 65-41 in the final two quarters. It represented a huge step for the Warriors, who have often struggled when facing teams near or at the bottom of the league standings.
“We checked this one off,” Stephen Curry–who “quietly” had 29 points–told CSN Bay Area’s Ric Bucher after the game.
That’s exactly what Golden State must do when facing teams like the Suns (16-32). The crowd may not have the same electricity as when Kevin Durant is in the building, and Curry and company may not feel the same hot breath on their necks as when the Heat stop by, but games like this have to get “checked off.” The Warriors know they can play with the big boys in the NBA; the key to their long-term success will be how they play the little guys. Tonight, despite a few hiccups at the outset, they played superbly.
The Dubs also improved to 16-6 at Oracle Arena, and are clearly a team to be reckoned with come playoff time if they can somehow manage to snag home court advantage in the first round. Of the eight teams positioned to make the playoffs out of the Western Conference, only the Utah Jazz have played as few games at home (22) as Golden State. With Memphis’ prospects cloudy after the Rudy Gay trade, the Warriors are in as good a position as any team to move up in the seedings over the last several months of the season.
All-around team efforts like the one Golden State got on Saturday will help that cause, as well. Curry led all scorers (which he does from time to time), but all five starters reached double figures, with Andrew Bogut pouring in 11 with seven rebounds and three blocks. Bogut’s performance was especially encouraging, and the Warriors’ big fourth quarter lead allowed Mark Jackson to rest him down the stretch, something that will become very important the longer the season goes on.
There wasn’t a whole lot of contribution from the bench against the Suns, but Golden State hardly needed any. Carl Landry, who has battled his own nagging injuries, led non-starters with eight points.
Next up for the Warriors is a tough four-game road trip, with the Houston Rockets first up after two days off. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks follow afterwards. It isn’t quite the brutal five-game stretch Golden State had to endure in January, but will still be a big test for a team looking to make a statement entering the All-Star Break.