The Warriors suffered a 120-98 loss to the Phoenix Suns Thursday night and remain one game above .500 in 9th position in the Western Conference as the first half of the NBA season comes to an end.
The Golden State Warriors were in Phoenix to take on the Suns without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, resting for All-Star festivities this weekend and injury concerns, respectively, and Kelly Oubre Jr. remained sidelined with a wrist injury he picked up in practice earlier in the week. While some Dubs fans were upset to see players sit out, the rest is much needed for players on the NBA team that has travelled more distance this season than any other.
It makes sense. It’s a back-to-back. Steph needs a day before he goes to All Star. Draymond has tweaks that could use some recuperation. I understand it’s a bummer, but it makes sense. https://t.co/SzOLmUcDIP— Kerith Burke (@KerithBurke) March 4, 2021
On the second night of a back-to-back, following a tough Dame-time loss in Portland after blowing a late lead, the Dubs were doing their best to not drop three in a row the first time all year.
If there was to be any warning of how this game would play out, Suns assassin Devin Booker was bouncing the ball from the free throw line over the backboard with one hand in shooting lines during warmups. It is certainly indicative of the casual way he has gone about dismantling NBA opponents this season, with the Suns sitting second in the Western Conference and boasting the fourth-best record in the league.
With three starters out and Kevon Looney getting restricted minutes, the door was open for some of the team’s younger players to show up and show out. Nico Mannion and Jordan Poole got the start for the Warriors after logging significant minutes for their G-league affiliate in Santa Cruz last month, both having signed two-way contracts this season.
Despite being within one point with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter, the Warriors allowed the Suns to push the lead to 11 before the end of the period, and never made up enough ground to truly make it an honest fight.
With such a defunct roster missing so many pieces, it was hard for the Warriors to establish any momentum. Even as they were able to cut the lead to seven to start the second half and keep it relatively close throughout the third quarter, an alley-oop and barrage of threes from Booker and co. were just too much for this Warriors squad to overcome.
Mannion, who played high-school and college ball in Arizona, showed a lot of value for the Dubs on the defensive end and highlighted some of his skills as well as his willingness to compete.
While Poole did not register a single field-goal attempt in the first quarter, the Warriors guard would go on to lead both teams in scoring for the game with 26 points on 10-16 shooting and 5-10 from 3-pt land.
26 Points (career-high)— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 5, 2021
10-16 from the field
5-10 from beyond the arc
Jordan Poole got buckets in Phoenix 📽️ pic.twitter.com/36hRrQpSgK
"I liked his confidence, the way he came off screens, he's been working really hard all year," head coach Steve Kerr said about Poole's performance in his postgame Zoom conference. "When you play like he did tonight then you definitely deserve another look. You always have to earn everything in this league, and the way he played tonight, he definitely earned more minutes."
While no one can say based on the effort put forth by the players that the Warriors didn’t care about this game, the sentiment that was emanating from the organization before and after the contest, and at many points throughout this season, was something of indifference, and it is this attitude of ‘we’ll just flush it’ that has the Dubs finding new ways to lose.
Being upset by the Cavs in the 2016 Finals after winning a record 73 games in the regular season really taught the franchise something about how much weight to place on the first 82. Kerr’s philosophy all year is that the team will only concern itself with getting better each game, placing no more importance on any one game than another, continuing to build and grow until the playoffs.
However, so many dropped games could come down to really cost this Warriors team, as their younger talent badly needs the extended playoff experience. Questions still remain regarding whether or not too many concessions are being made and if ending up with the 8 seed at the end of the year, and getting subsequently bounced by Utah or LA in the first round of the playoffs, will come back to haunt the Warriors the following season when Klay Thompson returns from injury and another NBA championship will be expected if not anticipated by fans and sports media alike.
For reference, the Warriors are three games out of 5th place, staring down the backs of three teams they’ve beaten convincingly already this year, and drawing a team like Portland, San Antonio, or Phoenix, and potentially extending their playoff run another round, could really help them fill the void the franchise still feels from losing top-tier reserves in Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
One thing is for sure: the Golden State Warriors do not play again until they take on the Clippers in Los Angeles on March 11th, but you can get your Dubs fix in this weekend as Steph Curry looks to win his second 3-Point Contest Sunday evening after 6:30 p.m. before going up against Team Durant in the All-Star game directly following.
Top Image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images