You never know. That’s why they play the games.
The Phoenix Suns, entering on a six-game losing streak and with a “Seven Players or Less” roster (h/t Aussie Suns Fans Podcast), upset the favored Golden State Warriors in impressive fashion on Tuesday night. In front of a national TNT audience, the Suns pieced together the remnants of a depleted roster, played with energy and focus, and demoralized the Warriors with a 125-113 victory.
It was a team effort across the board. Mikal Bridges led the way with 26 points, and Duane Washington, Jr. — who got the start in Chris Paul, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet’s absence — scored 21 points. Damion Lee scored 21 points (14 from the line) in his return to Golden State and Dario Saric ended with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists.
The Warrior trio of Steph, Klay, and Poole combined for 80 points, but it wasn’t enough to topple the Suns. Phoenix outrebounded Golden State 58-45.
Here is how the Suns earned their first victory of the 2023 calendar year, pushing their record to 21-21.
The team was undermanned. No Booker. No Paul. No Ayton. No Shamet. No Payne. No Johnson. No Crowder. Duane Washington, Jr. received the start, which means that every man on the Suns roster has started a game for the team. Not exactly the recipe for success.
Suns have so many injuries TNT can’t even fit everyone in the graphic— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) January 11, 2023
Stephen Curry returned for the Warriors, because, why wouldn’t he? He missed the previous 11 games for the shoulder injury but returned on Tuesday night. But it was Klay Thompson who did the damage early, scoring 11 of the Warriors first 18 points and 14 in the first.
The Suns played competitively on the defensive interior, highlighted by a pair of blocks by Torrey Craig and Bismack Biyombo. Phoenix scored on the inside, with 14 of their first 18 points coming in the paint.
Damion Lee made his return to Golden State and received his 2022 NBA Championship ring pregame. He came out and scored eight points in the first quarter in his former home arena.
Damion Lee is so grateful to have won his first ring with the Warriors and have it presented tonight by brother-in-law Stephen Curry before the Suns face Golden State. pic.twitter.com/zGPTSusTeh— Janie McCauley (@JanieMcCAP) January 11, 2023
Dario Saric looked better than he had all season up to this point, even completing an and-one play. Yes, I was shocked as you were.
During their current losing streak, the Suns have struggled in the first quarter, often coming out flat and having to dig themselves out of an early hole. The ball was moving, the defensive intensity was there, and the team shot well in the first in this one. Phoenix ended the first with a lead, up 31-26, ending the quarter on a 10-0 run.
Phoenix opened up the second quarter with the same energy on both ends of the court. Blocks, steals, rebounds. The hustle plays. It feels as if this is what has been missing from Phoenix for quite some time. Effort. And accountability for that effort.
They expanded their lead to 10 points at the eight minute mark of the second quarter as the defense Josh Okogie was playing on Stephen Curry was commendable. He had active hands and made Steph uncomfortable with his tactful physicality.
The Warriors went over four minutes without scoring a single point midway through the second quarter, and looked like the Suns have over the past month. Shots weren’t falling. Golden State shot 34.7% from the field in the first half, but Phoenix shot only 38.5%.
Credit the Suns for their level of defense as it was the extra possessions that allowed them to build a lead. They scored 14 points off of Warrior turnovers, while allowing only 3 points off of their 6 turnovers.
It was an unexpectedly fun first half from Phoenix. The old saying goes that an injured dog is dangerous. Phoenix looked dangerous.
Great summation of how the first half has gone for Phoenix. Active hands on one end are leading to buckets on the other pic.twitter.com/USOrLHw7qV— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 11, 2023
The Suns went 8-of-18 from deep in the first half and outshot the Warriors from the line — Phoenix had 12 attempts to Golden State’s 4 — and took a 14-point lead into the half.
Suns 59, Warriors 45.
Phoenix picked up where they left off in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors 14-7 before Steve Kerr finally called a mercy time out.
Dario Saric and Torrey Craig were running pick and rolls. Bizzy was dropping left-handed slam dunks. Dario was hitting three pointers. It is as if we entered an episode of the Twilight Zone. I am surprised TNT did not cut to sideline reporter Rod Serling to inform us of this as he puffed on a cigarette.
Steph was rusty in this one and you could tell that he had missed some time. Still, every time he made a three pointer, fear overwhelmed you. All it takes is one going in for Stephen Curry to begin a scoring barrage.
Steph and Klay hit a pair of three-pointers midway through the third, but Duane Washington, Jr. astutely responded by attacking the basket. This got them to the line. What a concept. This helped push their lead to 26 points.
This is hilarious. The NBA is impossible to predict. pic.twitter.com/oaVx8vTb5I— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) January 11, 2023
The Warriors ended the third quarter on a 19-12 run to shrink the deficit to 19 points. Jordan Poole began to feel it, hitting a couple of three’s and getting to the line.
Suns 98, Warriors 79 after three quarters.
The Suns haven't scored 100 points in their first four games in 2023.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 11, 2023
They've scored 98 through the first three quarters against the Warriors tonight.
You knew the Warriors would come out swinging in the fourth, increasing their defensive intensity and attacking behind their Chase Center crowd. They opened on a 7-2 run and shrank the Suns’ lead to 14 points with 8:57 left in the game.
It was the most uneasy 14-point lead I’ve ever felt and the sharpshooting Warriors were heating up.
Dario Saric and Jock Landale both were hit with their fifth fouls early in the fourth — primarily coming via offensive fouls — which felt like it strangely could effect the outcome. Dario was playing well! He was on triple-double watch.
The Suns were playing the “we’re just trying to hold on” game.
The Suns in the 4th feel like when you’re trying to get to the gas station before the tank hits empty. That light is on but you just might have enough.— Espo (@Espo) January 11, 2023
Andre Iguodala was tossed out of the game after tossing the ball into the stands after a make by Mikal Bridges. It was interesting because Andre was guarding Duane Washington, Jr. Respect.
DWJ immediately responded with a made three-pointer.
The Warriors cut their deficit to 10 following an 8-0 run with three minutes left. They continued to force turnovers during their 16-4 run, and with 1:28 left, Jordan Poole hit a three-pointer to make it 117-111, Phoenix.
Suns barely hanging on here. Had a 26-point third quarter lead and its down to 6 with 1:28 left after a Poole three pointer.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) January 11, 2023
All Suns fans had the same question as the seconds ticked away: Where is Duane? The team had no ball handler to take the ball up the court and the Warriors took advantage of it.
It was Damion Lee who closed out the game for Phoenix. He got to the line and ended 14-of-14 there (after having 45 FTA the rest of the season) and iced the Warriors for the surprising 12-point victory.
Not rest for the weary. The Suns head to Denver tonight to take on the Nuggets. Tomorrow night.
Until then, Bright Siders. Hope you enjoyed this trip...through the Twilight Zone.