Devin Booker suffers hamstring injury, but the Suns win anyway
The hype was huge for today’s matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors, and it sure lived up to the billing.
The Suns were trying to be the first team to win all their games in a calendar month since the 2015-16 Warriors did it. Only six teams have ever done it in NBA history before this game. That list now stands at 7.
The crowd was raucous in the first quarter as both teams traded buckets. It definitely was one of those rare early season games that had a playoff atmosphere. Neither team disappointed, taking advantage of miscues while playing fast-paced basketball that saw the Suns take an 18-15 lead with with 6:00 left in the first quarter.
Steph Curry didn’t get it going early, but Jordan Poole was waiting in the wings to shoulder the offensive load for the Warriors in the first quarter, finishing with 16 points while going 4 of 5 from deep. He hit a sick fastbreak three with 3:27 left that gave the Warriors a 25-22 lead, their first since the score was 6-4. Poole went on a personal 11-0 run that destroyed the Suns’ momentum.
While the Warriors gave the Suns problems with their shooting, Phoenix countered with their size advantage, as DeAndre Ayton and JaVale McGee combined for 15 points to keep the game within single-digits. The Warriors held a 35-31 heading into the second quarter.
The Suns kept the game within reach in the second quarter, finding answers when it looked like the Warriors were starting to threaten to push their lead to double digits. A Jae Crowder triple cut the Warriors’ lead to 48-46, but the Suns then fouled Poole on a three-point attempt that let him make 2 of 3 to push the lead back to 50-46 with 5:16 left in the period.
The Suns finally tied the game again at 50 with 3:52 left, and then took a 53-30 lead with three minutes left thanks to a Cam Payne, which Otto Porter Jr. answered to tie it at 53. Ayton blocked a Curry long ball and then was rewarded with a sweet pass on the other end as the Suns finally re-took the lead at 56-54 at the end of the second quarter.
Curry struggled with his shot in the first half, finishing with 8 points while making 3 of 13 field goals. His mere shooting threat always kept passing lanes open though, and he was even willing to give up his body to take charges. Devin Booker started to get it going in the second quarter and he finished as the Suns’ second-leading scorer at halftime with 10 points, but left the game before the half ended as he suffered a hamstring injury after driving to the basket.
The question heading into the second half was how the Suns could keep the momentum without Devin Booker’s scoring threat to help spread the floor against the Warriors’ defense. Things got a little chippy to start the third quarter, and Kevon Looney was called for a flagrant foul within the first minute. Jae Crowder missed both free throws from that sequence, but Ayton made a tough turnaround jumper to give them some points.
Poole took a few too many bad threes, and the Suns stayed steady, which allowed them to push their lead to 62-57 with 8:31 left in the third. A Mikal Bridges steal helped the Suns open up their biggest lead of the night at 69-61, which Ayton added to with a split pair of free throws to make it 70-61. The Warriors suddenly found themselves being the ones needing the ones to keep the game from getting out of hand. They did find their own run after Andrew Wiggins made an and-one and Jordan Poole hit a pair of free throws, then made another three to cut it to 72-69. Poole then got a block on one end, then assisted to Gary Payton II on the other end to make it a 72-71 with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
The Dubs tied the game at 75 after another steal turned into fast break points, but Cam Payne hit a three to give the Suns the lead back at 78-75. Curry finally hit another three after coming back on the floor to tie it at 78 again. Steph airballed his next shot, though, which could have given them the lead. It was still an 80-78 Suns lead heading into the final stanza.
Entering the fourth quarter, Curry had 11 points on 4 of 19 shooting and 3 of 12 from deep. If there was ever a time to get hot, this was it. In a game where the opposing team’s best scorer was out, Curry, needed to step it up. He took advantage of the attention he drew to help get his teammates get points in the early part of the fourth quarter, which let them keep it close, but the Suns wouldn’t give him any easy looks at the bucket.
The Dubs had trouble getting a go-ahead bucket, even with some good shots, and the Suns still held a 92-89 lead when Steve Kerr called a timeout with 5:38 left. The Suns pushed their lead to 97-91 thanks to a pair of Jae Crowder threes, which lit up the crowd and even got Monty Williams called for a technical foul for running onto the court to celebrate.
Chris Paul increased that to 99-92 with 2:58 left. The Warriors couldn’t buy a bucket to close the game, and Landry Shamet made a dagger three to push their lead to 102-92 with less than a minute left – effectively putting the game out of reach before it ended 104-96.
Ayton led the Suns in scoring with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Chris Paul was his usual efficient self as he finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists, 5 steals and 3 turnovers.
Andrew Wiggins almost skipped the game due to a back injury, but still grinded his way to 10 points. Poole led all scorers with 28 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a blocks.
Curry’s terrible shooting night will give him a lot of motivation to play better when they meet again later this week. He finished with 12 points on 4 of 21 shooting while making 3 of 14 triples.
Both teams had a lot of turnovers in the game, it was a messy affair. Golden State had 9 turnovers in the second quarter alone on the way to a total of 22. The Suns finished the game with 12 miscues, but most of those came in the first half before they calmed things down.
The Suns earned this one. They now stand atop the Western Conference, as they have an identical 18-3 record to the Warriors but have the tiebreaker. They’ll see the Dubs again in San Francisco in a few days.
The Nets edge out the Knicks in an entertaining battle in New York
Knicks were down 16 in the third quarter but they never gave up, instead bringing themselves back into the game after taking a 92-90 lead in the fourth quarter. First lead since a 61-60 lead at halftime.
The second half was a classic. There were a total of 9 ties and 17 lead changes in the game, with most of them being in the fourth quarter. Evan Fournier tied the game at 110 with 17 seconds left in, getting himself open after the Nets bungled the switch. James Johnson managed to make a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left to push the lead back to 112-110, and Fournier wasn’t able to make the desperation heave.
James Harden was in attack mode with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals while making 11 of 20 shots and 9 of 10 free throws. Kevin Durant had 27 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists in the win.
Julius Randle had another near triple-double for the Knicks with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, while Alec Burks continued to succeed in his upgraded starter role with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Derrick Rose balled out hard in the fourth as he finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists.