PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns wanted to win their 16th straight game at home for Christmas, but the Golden State Warriors had other plans.
Stephen Curry led the shorthanded Warriors to a 116-107 win over the Suns in Phoenix on Saturday. He scored 33 points, the most he’s ever recorded on Christmas Day.
Curry said it was the Warriors’ biggest win of the season. “Nice win on Christmas. Nice win on the road against the best record in the league and we were shorthanded,” he said of his team, which was missing three key shooters due to COVID-19 and injury.
Four of the Suns’ starters finished in double figures. Chris Paul scored 21 points, Deandre Ayton had 18, Devin Booker had 13 points and Mikal Bridges had 17.
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Here’s four takeaways from Saturday night’s game:
The Suns are known for winning with their defense, with the No. 2-ranked defense in the league, but they met their match Saturday against the Warriors’ top-ranked defense.
With 2:32 left in the game, Curry stole the ball from Paul and set Otto Porter Jr. up for a clutch jumper, one of three big shots he hit down the stretch to seal the Warriors’ win. The Suns shot 0-for-4 for the final 3:01 of the game.
“We’re usually a really good defensive team. Tonight we gave up a bunch of stuff,” Paul said. “I don’t think we ever really got connected.”
Coach Monty Williams said the Warriors flat-out “played harder than us.”
“They out-worked us more consistently,” Williams said. “Porter was 8-for-13, he just made timely shots tonight and we did not have and answer for him.”
Leading up to Christmas Day, the Suns were 15-2 at home, winning the last 15 straight, including a win against the Warriors last month during their first matchup of the season.
The Suns wanted to send a message that they can’t be beaten at home, but they were ultimately unsuccessful in their third matchup with the Warriors.
With the win, the Warriors snapped the Suns’ 15-game home win streak, which was the franchise’s eight-longest.
It’s not the first streak the Warriors spoiled this season. Earlier this month, the Warriors snapped the Suns’ franchise-record 18-game win streak in San Francisco during their second matchup of the year.
The Suns are now 1-2 against the Warriors this regular season. The loss could serve as a critical tiebreaker if the Suns and Warriors tie for the top record in the West.
“I know there was a lot of spotlight on today, but it’s over with and the season moves on, and it’s on to the next game mentality,” Booker said.
They meet again for the last time this season in March.
It was a tale of two halves for the Suns’ bench.
In the first half, JaVale McGee was the only person to score off the bench with six points. Cameron Payne went 0-for-3, Cameron Johnson went 0-for-3 and Landry Shamet 0-for-1.
The second half was a different story. Johnson scored eight big points in the third quarter and hit a 3-pointer in the fourth to put the Suns up 87-86. He finished the game 3-for-6 and 2-for-5 from three. Payne added seven points in the second half and Shamet scored four.
McGee finished 3-for-3 with eight points.
The Suns are going to need a better performance from their bench if they are going to compete with the Warriors.
The Suns and Warriors rivalry proved to be a gift to NBA fans and a potential preview of the Western Conference Finals, but it’s important to realize that the Warriors did not have all their pieces.
After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, the Warriors are contenders, a remarkable feat considering they are nowhere near full strength despite sitting atop the Western Conference. On Saturday, the Warriors had four players on the COVID-19 list, including Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Damion Lee and Moses Moody.
They have been battling personnel issues. Andre Iguodala was out due to right knee soreness. Klay Thompson didn’t play in the Christmas game, but is expected to rejoin the Warriors soon after missing the last two seasons due to injury. James Wiseman is also out recovering from a knee inj.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort