Suns edge Warriors by forcing hella turnovers
Chris Paul strikes again!
The Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors both put on defensive masterclasses last night, but it was the Suns who prevailed in a hard fought 106-94 win. Both teams weren’t at their full strength (Devin Booker left the game with a hamstring injury, the Warriors were missing Klay Thompson, James Wiseman, Andre Iguodala, and Damion Lee), but there were plenty of quality players on the floor to make for an excellent game.
The Suns forced the Warriors into 22 turnovers and Stephen Curry had the worst shooting night of his career.
If Curry has even a mediocre night, it’s probably a different story. Jordan Poole (28 points), Otto Porter Jr. (16 points), and Gary Payton II (8 points and 7 rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench) looked like playoff ready performers.
But I wanna focus on Phoenix executing their defensive philosophy and flummoxing not only Curry, but Golden State’s playmakers Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson. Those are the two guys responsible for keeping the offense humming and moving with passing and decision making while the scorers get open. Phoenix did a great job strangling passing lanes and forcing Green and JTA to look for their own shot.
I believe Phoenix definitely gambled on those two beating them, and last night it paid off. I’ll take a snapshot of some of the floor spacing that was the beginning of doom for the Warriors.
Exhibit A, 2Q 1:37 mark
Jordan Poole tries to get busy off the dribble and draw some attention, which the Phoenix defense eagerly obliges. Poole gets into the paint against three defenders and kicks it to the top of the arc where Draymond Green resides.
This is where two Suns are guarding three Warriors on the arc. To Green’s left is GOAT shooter (didn’t look like it last night lmao) Curry, being ball hawked by arch nemesis and defensive savant Chris Paul. To Green’s right is dead-eye shooter Otto Porter Jr., who is drawing Cameron Payne away from Green.
Green tries to laser beam a pass to Curry, and CP3 deftly bats it away for a turnover. Paul has probably seen the Warriors do this a billion times and probably had indignant tears streaming down his face, screaming“NOT AGAIN! NO NO NO” as he saw the action developing.
Exhibit B, 3Q 10:10 mark
Curry splits a Kevon Looney screen on the right wing and barrels toward the paint where the Suns collapse on him like armed sentries. He intelligently swings the ball out towards the left wing where Green is cutting, but the spacing is rough as you have Curry, Looney, and Green all in the same area of the floor with Phoenix players all over them.
If Green shoots a mid range, or a floater, or resets the play to find something else, the Warriors maybe salvage the possession. Instead he tries to sneak it inside to Looney who gets swarmed immediately, and Phoenix takes possession.
Exhibit C, 2Q 10:04 mark
JTA screens for a dribbling Curry, who zings a pass to Nemanja Bjelica in the corner. Belly swings it to JTA who is streaking down the middle. Devin Booker picks up JTA down low and eliminates any easy layup.
But JTA is a pass-first guy, and knows he should have Auto Corner Jr. open for an easy triple. Not so fast, as CP3 anticipated this and is jumping the passing lane for the interception. If JTA takes his time and gives Booker a nice move to score, or get fouled, or draw a double team around the basket, the Suns have to rejigger their defensive net.
Instead, they can swarm around with CP3 acting as a free safety, mucking up the passing lanes and daring the Warriors to score 1 on 1 with players who aren’t necessarily looking for their own shot.
Exhibit D, 4Q 9:58 mark
JTA is the trigger man on Bjelica screening for Curry on the wing. The Suns expertly navigate it by grabbing and holding both Belly and Curry, and then making a timely switch to make sure Curry can’t get loose.
With the shot clock running down, JTA is forced to try and heroically drive around solid defender Jae Crowder, but he’s not historically known as an ISO-get-you-a-bucket kinda guy. This play ends with JTA losing control of the ball throwing a desperate pass out of the drive that flies out of bounds.
All that being said, the Warriors have seen this before. Phoenix isn’t the first team to be physical and excellent at timing their switches. The San Antonio Spurs did it, the Houston Rockets did it, the Cleveland Cavaliers did, on and on and on. All those once proud franchises are obliterated now because Golden State overcame their tactics.
Of course, it helps to have guys like Klay and Andre on the floor who enjoy that style of play because that’s where their IQ and competitiveness shine. And I’d be really interested to see how that switching style works against James Wiseman, who has the height and athleticism to finish around the rim in traffic where sometimes the ground bound Looney struggles.