PHOENIX -- The Golden State Warriors closed out the Phoenix Suns 106-100, but again, the results were less than impressive, given the talent disparity. The Warriors continue to look more like a work in progress than a re-definition of the sport.
This was, theoretically, a “get right” game for the vaunted super team. Although the Suns boast talent, that talent is usually too raw to be threatening. This should have been, finally, the showcase for a juggernaut.
It certainly started that way. Stephen Curry opened the game ablaze, scoring 10 points within the first four minutes (eight of which came in a 1:38 span). Did Golden State build on that? Did the Warriors end the game in the first quarter, as they did quite a few times last season?
Not exactly. Curry touched the ball only once over the next four possessions, and it took 10 plays for him to get another shot. At that point, he and the Warriors were out of sorts in the midst of a 20-2 Phoenix onslaught.
This example does not stand as an argument for always feeding Curry more. Instead, it is an illustration of how and why the Warriors have struggled to find a simple rhythm. Many nights, one of their stars won’t touch the ball enough. It’s the downside of such a luxurious roster, and it is indeed a downside. Golden State is still figuring out how to be potent while being egalitarian on offense. It’s easier in theory than in reality.
Kevin Durant looks uncomfortable with some of Golden State’s long-forged screening concepts, but he managed to score with ruthless efficiency (37 points on 16 shots). For years, the Warriors never had someone who draws fouls as he does or punishes the opposition in transition as he did, with a screaming and-1 dunk to end the half.
Of his ability to draw fouls, Durant said, “Just taking what the defense gives me. You play me straight up, I like my chances.”
He added that Golden State’s offensive system provides more opportunities for knifing into the paint and drawing fouls.
“My guys were setting great screens for me and I was able to get downhill some,” Durant said. “We missed some great shots, but we were moving. Once you move your bodies, be aggressive, you get to the free throw line.”
While Durant’s offense has come easily, the same cannot be said of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who struggled in this game. Green was playing out of control for much of the game but delivered two key defensive plays to keep the Suns at bay. He remains important to the effort, even on a night when he shot 2-of-9.
“I know I've shot awful,” Green said. “That stuff will come together. You would think like, with this team and all the firepower we'll shoot the lights out, but part of shooting is rhythm. I think we have to find our rhythm with our offense that we haven't found yet.”
Green was asked if opponents were coming at the Warriors especially hard. “I think even more so physically,” he said. “Teams are trying to punk us and it's fine, like, we're not going to get punked."
Green is optimistic about the Warriors weathering this storm, even if early results haven’t been smooth.
“I'd much rather be here now and start peaking when it's the right time than where we were at the start of last season. I feel like we kind of peaked too early. So, I think we're in a good space, continuing to get better, and it's frustrating. Like, it's frustrating for everybody. But that's a part of it. Trust the process.”
As for the other warts in what, of course, still counts as a win, Golden State’s rim protection lapsed at times, most notably on an early Eric Bledsoe hesitation drive past Zaza Pachulia and a late Jared Dudley finger roll over nobody in particular. Transition defense continues to be an issue. Curry, for all the good he does offensively (28 points, 17 shots), still struggles to not foul.
As a result, the Warriors are 2-1, and few are “panicking” about their flaws, as the cliché goes. But it doesn’t take a panicky person to say the team looks off. Of course, Golden State can find potency in the future, but the recent past is fairly insipid.