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Steve Kerr's Christmas gamble pays off in Warriors' huge win over Suns
Golden State reminded Phoenix there are levels to being king of the West.
Yesterday on Christmas afternoon, the underdog Golden State Warriors were trying to get away with murder in Phoenix.
With just under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, that freakishly athletic layup from rookie Jonathan Kuminga had just put them up 104-97 against the reigning Western Conference champions. The Warriors were suffocating the Suns in front of their fans and families with a paper-thin depth chart being held together by Scotch tape, Stephen Curry’s preposterous shot making, and Christmas magic.
But longtime Warriors antagonist Chris Paul wasn’t going to let them get away that easy. He snaked past Kuminga and finished at the rim with a gutsy layup that brought the Suns within five points with 5 minutes to go.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr stepped onto the court and called timeout. He was bereft of his normal council as his three assistant coaches missed the game due to medical concerns. His next move had to be his best move with the game in the balance; there was no doubt he had to get the resting Draymond Green back into the game.
And while he did reinsert Green, I was hella surprised to see the Dubs trot out a lineup without their best player Curry on the floor. For the first time in my life, I could understand the plight of the #FireKerr crowd who questioned his substitution patterns and rigid dogma that the entire team be relied on to contribute even if that meant diminishing Curry’s individual opportunities.
LOL damn! I’d never refer to a man who has led the Warriors to titles as a “clown ass coach”, but I think it’s fair to say that Kerr’s decision was eyebrow raising in the moment.
Curry sat for the next 2:19 of gametime. Here’s the two offensive possessions that kept the Warriors ahead:
An Otto Porter Jr. pull-up three-pointer over a Kevon Looney screen? Lmao wut.
And an off-ball screen from Looney to OPJ out of Kerr’s tried-and-true post splits play that led to Green barreling for a bucket on an out of position defense.
The Phoenix defense didn’t have to deal with Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, or Andre Iguodala on either of those crunchtime possessions…and still couldn’t prevent the Dubs from scoring those huge buckets. And the Suns are elite defensively!
When Kerr put Curry back in the game with 2:47 remaining and a 109-107 lead, the final sprint was all Golden State as our guy Apricot revealed in his latest E1P episode. The Dubs won 116-107, a statement victory on the road despite their injury woes.
I just want to go back real quick to the audacity of Kerr to rest Curry in that spot. Apparently the logic was Kerr noticed Curry was exhausted from running high pick-and-rolls over and over:
Kerr referred to that earlier triple by Porter we referenced as the biggest shot of the game as it gave Curry time to catch his breath without the Suns taking the lead. Those are the kinds of moments that build trust and confidence when they work, and activate rage in the fanbase when they don’t. Thankfully Kerr is someone Dub Nation can depend on to make the tough decisions. #ChasingWins?
I’d like to ask the esteemed DNHQ community how you feel this game reflects on some of the ongoing narratives around here:
1.) How worried about big man depth are you after Suns center DeAndre Ayton shot 80% but only finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds in a loss?
2.) Do you expect Gary Payton II (14pts/8reb in 30 minutes as a starter) and Kuminga (12 points and hellacious defense off the bench) to be consistent playoff contributors come next spring?
3.) Is it arrogant to write off Phoenix as a true threat after beating them for the Christmas Day championship?
I look forward to hearing your musings; enjoy your holiday weekend!