In an interview with ESPN shortly after the half-time buzzer of his team's meeting with Golden State on Wednesday night, Phoenix Suns' center Jusuf Nurkic acknowledged the dangerous threat the Warriors pose offensively. In the same sentence, he also dealt a harsh reality to the visitors, labelling them "poor defensively".
It's rare for a player to publicly criticize a rival team mid-game, but Nurkic wasn't wrong. It's the brutal reality of how the Warriors are faring, not aided by the current absence of arguably their best two defenders in Draymond Green and Gary Payton II.
The Golden State Warriors' defense was put further under the microscope in their loss to the Phoenix Suns, particularly following mid-game comments from Jusuf Nurkic.
Nurkic's comments followed a second-quarter that ultimately proved decisive in Phoenix's 123-115 victory at Footprint Center. After Golden State had won the opening period 31-26, the home team poured in 37 points in the second period to build a 16-point lead.
The onslaught continued early in the third-quarter, with the Suns putting up another 20 points within the first five minutes and seven seconds. The Warriors lacked energy, repeatedly missed coverages, and lacked effective communication as they sought to stop Phoenix's star duo of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
Ironically, it was the Warrior younger players and bench unit who almost pulled off a miraculous comeback late in the game. After trailing by 22 with under four minutes left in the third, Golden State cut the margin to three with 19 seconds to play.
Phoenix would ultimately hang on, appropriately sealing the game at the free-throw line down the stretch. The Warrior defense was incapable of keeping the Suns off the line all game, with their 52 attempts the most by any Golden State opponent since 2015.
That number wasn't helped by three technical fouls late in the first-half, two of which were assessed to Chris Paul who was ejected by notable and long-time nemesis Scott Foster. Regardless, the Suns still shot a competent 45% from the floor and an efficient 39% from three-point range.
With the Warriors seeking to re-establish their championship identity, teams are going to be hellbent on driving the knife through any hopes of adding to their dynastic legacy. Nurkic's comments were a blunt but factual remark on the state of the Golden State defense and the respect (or lack thereof) that it's currently held in around the league.
Across an eight-game stretch where they've suffered seven losses, the Warriors have conceded an average of 118 points. While the return of Green and Payton should aid their issues to a degree, this is a defense that's a million miles from championship worthiness.