The real and true beginning of this game came when Dragan Bender hit the bottom (yes, I wrote that correctly) of the backboard on an open three. Bender is definitely the type of guy who would actually be hurt by the idea of a revenge opportunity against the team that cut bait with him before the end of his rookie contract.
A few moments later, Bender responded by hitting a triple over Deandre Ayton to give the Suns a 10-8 lead.
On the Suns’ side, Ricky Rubio continued the most energetic stretch of play he’s produced in months with four points and three assists before checking out with 5:25 to go in the first and the Suns up 6. By juicing the pace and taking advantage of the Warriors’ porous defense, the Suns were able to get 10 points in the paint early, with Rubio leading the charge.
The second unit played quite well in the opening period. Aron Baynes scored six points, including a rare corner three, and Cameron Johnson put the ball on the floor to dish to teammates, a skill he’ll have every opportunity to show over the next several weeks with Kelly Oubre Jr. sidelined.
The Suns went into the second period up, 41-28.
That's the third 40-point first quarter of the season for the Suns. The other two were the game in Golden State at the start of the year and the blowout win over the Rockets earlier this month.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) March 1, 2020
Perhaps it was playing against former VIllanova teammate Eric Paschall or just something in the air, but Mikal Bridges also came alive offensively. Bridges started the game 4-5 from deep and was shooting with a level of confidence unseen since his college days. Keep that same energy all year, Mr. Bridges.
The bench’s strong play also allowed Devin Booker to rest until the 8:09 mark in the second period. Monty Williams said this week his ideal minutes mark for Booker is 32, with the All-Star playing eight minutes per quarter. That math gets a little tricky considering Booker often plays most or all of the first period, but it’s something to monitor going forward.
The Suns maintained a lead throughout the second period. Though Booker was getting smacked around, everyone else made enough plays to compensate. And make no mistake about it — the Warriors beat Booker up. Even though their defensive talent is pretty terrible, it’s fairly easy to execute a strategy of “run at star player and bump him.”
Booker had just five shots after his first 15 minutes of action.
The Suns went into the half up, 65-61, but Golden State outscored them by 9 in the second.
The third quarter whizzed by until Marquese Chriss was called for a technical foul that came out of nowhere. Chriss must have said something to an opponent or the referees. The call came after the teams’ previous matchup earlier in the month in Phoenix, when Booker was called for a tech after dunking on Chriss and talking trash about it.
Booker made his fourth triple a few moments later to put the Suns up 4.
On the other end, many of Booker’s worst habits flared up. The malaise of a season slipping away is starting to take hold of the Suns in general, and Booker’s defense showed that. Not many multiple-effort possessions, ball-watching, all of it. The kind of stuff even these Warriors will punish you for.
The offense wasn’t much better. If losing to the hapless Pistons is bad, falling to the carefree, tax-avoiding Warriors is NBA malpractice. These are the types of games, on the day in February that isn’t real, that make you sit back and wonder how the Suns can feel so much closer to their ultimate goal while simultaneously so, so far away.
Looney is spinning in traffic, Bender is hitting 3s, Paschall is finding his early-season rhythm and the Warriors are up 11 going into the fourth.... just the game we all expected.— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) March 1, 2020
The Suns entered the fourth down, 92-81. Whew.
Rubio and Andrew Wiggins pissed each other off to start the final period, as Wiggins stole the ball from Rubio on the Suns’ first possession, then Rubio fouled Wiggins the next time down. Weird that they were even guarding one another.
A few minutes later, Rubio slapped at Wiggins’ hands and nearly got a steal himself, but it was called off on Rubio. The Spaniard was mad. He dashed down the court for a layup that brought the Suns within single digits for the first time in a while.
Then, he found Ayton on a seal in the post in transition, notching the assist. Ayton hit another post layup (and an and-one free throw) a few minutes later to bring the Suns within 6.
The carelessness hit in a big wave after that. Apparently the Suns’ season snapped at the same time as Oubre’s meniscus. Presented with a big opportunity to push for the playoffs with six games at home and the rest of the West in a slog, the Suns lose to two of the very worst teams in the NBA back to back at home.
By the way: Chriss and Bender combined for 22 points and 16 rebounds and each were a plus-10 or better in the game. It doesn’t matter, but it’s certainly salt in the wound.
The Suns don’t deserve the playoffs after these two performances.