Golden State’s longest losing streak of the season is in the past, but the future doesn’t look all that much brighter.
The Warriors beat the Phoenix Suns, owners of the Western Conference’s worst record, by a final of 108-98 at Oracle Arena on Wednesday, earning a badly-needed victory in less than impressive fashion. Phoenix, a team destined for a lottery pick, hung around until the closing moments of the fourth quarter when they finally cooled off from behind the three point line and the Warriors pulled away.
Simply put, Golden State will have to pick it up from here on out. Oracle Arena is supposedly one of the best home court advantages in the league. The Warriors are supposedly a playoff team. And yet, they struggled to put away a team that has won just six road games all season and will have a strong shot at the upcoming draft’s number one overall pick.
A few performances saved the Warriors from suffering what would have been a back-breaking loss. Klay Thompson looked totally unaffected by any trade rumors, leading all scorers with 28 points while shooting an impressive ten of 18 from the field. Stephen Curry also had a solid shooting night, finishing eight of 16 for 20 points. Despite some rumblings that Thompson isn’t a fan of how he and Curry play together, the two looked like a fully functional backcourt, and even combined for 15 assists.
Andrew Bogut also recovered from a dismal game against the Jazz on Tuesday to pull down 11 rebounds and collect three blocks. The seven-foot center even dished out five assists, including a couple on beautiful no-look passes that served as a reminder of the depth of his game. The win over Phoenix represented the first time that Bogut played on back-to-back nights since returning from his ankle injury, and it’s clear that Golden State could use more performances like Wednesdays’s from Bogut to escape the doldrums currently plaguing the team.
Now, time for me to be a grouch. The Warriors once again found themselves almost incapable of defending the three-point shot, a problem that was a major issue during the six-game losing skid. The Suns, shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc for the season, began Wednesday eight for ten on triples before faltering down the stretch. They still finished nine of 17, a much better rate than Golden State can afford to allow any team to shoot, let alone a team like Phoenix.
The Warriors also found themselves incapable of distancing themselves from the inexperienced, lackluster Suns. Late in the game, Golden State led by just four points, 94-90, and looked to be in real danger of dropping their seventh straight contest. In the end, pure talent took over and Golden State escaped. However, that’s not an advantage the Dubs will enjoy in the coming days and weeks. The San Antonio Spurs are up next, if Wednesday’s performance is any indication, road games against the Timberwolves and Pacers won’t be cake walks, either. Golden State then travels to Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks to close out the month.
Efforts like the one against Phoenix simply won’t get the Warriors where they want to go. There is obviously a defect in what the Warriors are doing lately, and it’s up to Mark Jackson to locate and mend it. Until that happens, Golden State will continue to see its playoff positioning grow worse and worse as the crucial months approach.