After beating the Phoenix Suns on Monday night, the Golden State Warriors are now 50-12 on the season, on their way to a likely 65-win season and the #1 seed in the Western Conference.
The Suns drop to 33-32 and stay locked into that 10th spot in the West.
Did we expect any other outcome than a Warriors win? Those guys in the Warriors locker room said it all.
"I think our defense has a tendency to wear people down," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "If we can make it difficult on the opponent the whole first half, then eventually in the second half we will feel like we can get to them and we can force a lot of misses."
The Warriors have the #1 defense in the NBA and have the league's #2 point differential after halftime.
The Suns scored only 34 second half points, shooting 35% and going 0-4 on three pointers after Brandon Knight went down with an ankle injury and didn't return for the second half. (X-rays were negative, so it's just a sprain.)
"They locked us up defensively," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "You know, they switch a lot, that's when you really have to cut and move then maybe they get screwed up on the switches. If you just stand around and come off then they just switch it and they're in defensive position. Then obviously Curry got going making shots."
Hornacek was reaching for solutions there, but he's right that more ball movement would have forced the Warriors into a slightly tougher night. However, the Warriors are so good on D because they CAN switch so much. They don't need to rotate and get out of position. They play three likesized wings - among Thompson/Barnes/Iguodala/Green/Livingston - around Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut and often just take Bogut out for an ultra-switch lineup that's tough to beat.
But it wasn't just the Suns who were missing shots. The Suns played okay defense too. All the players on the court NOT named Stephen Curry - the Warriors and the Suns put together - made just 34% of their shots in the second half (20 for 58, including 3 of 12 threes). The Suns weren't going down without a fight.
"Tonight you could tell pretty early that it was a football game," coach Kerr said, giving credit to the Suns as well. "It was very physical, every play was difficult and that's why we never really got into much of a flow on offense. That's why we stayed with our defensive units with Festus (Ezeli), we stayed small at the four with Draymond (Green) and Harrison (Barnes) just to cover out on the Morris'. But I can't say enough about our defense tonight."
Guard Klay Thompson, who had 16 first half points and 9 more in the second half, agreed.
"Just persistence," he said of winning the game in the second half. "Especially on the defensive end. We didn't let up and we didn't settle with being up five or six (points). You know, Steph took the game over on offense."
Stephen Curry was the one who created the separation in the game. In the second half alone, he made 9 of 14 shots (including 6 of 8 threes) for 25 points.
Some of those shots were just crazy. And they made the game worth the price of admission, for those fans who stayed long enough.
The Suns kept the game within striking distance most of the second half until Curry's onslaught.
P.J. Tucker talked about all the screens they run to get Curry a shot but I'll tell you that none of those threes were wide open.
One of the bright spots in the game was T.J. Warren. When the Suns went to too much isolation ball, due to the switching defense of the Warriors not allowing any favorable matchups to exploit, it was Warren who helped give the Suns a spark at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter.
"Cut and you get the ball and get easier shots," coach Hornacek said of creating half court offense. "T.J. is great at that and hopefully the more the guys see him doing it maybe the other guys will pick up on it. It's just a matter of playing."
"It feels good," he said, of getting a chance to play lately. "It feels good to get an opportunity and get comfortable out there. Just trying to build my confidence as we move forward and just go play hard every time I get a chance."
Warren scored a career-high 11 points in 23 minutes of play, taking some of Brandon Knight's minutes after he was injured. Knight's injury made it doubly tough on the Suns. He'd scored 13 points in 13 first-half minutes before going down with an ankle injury.
Other Suns bright spots included Alex Len getting another double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Eric Bledsoe scoring 19 points.