SAN FRANCISCO -- After the Golden State Warriors wore a proverbial target on their back for years thanks to five straight NBA Finals appearances, Draymond Green said he is enjoying the prospect of going into next week's play-in tournament with relatively low expectations from pundits across the league.
"For a second there we were the hunters, then we turned into the hunted for five, six years, whatever it was. And now we're hunting again," Green said after a 122-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night. "That's always a fun position to be in when you're hunting, going after everybody else. Obviously, [I have] experience [in] both, but I love hunting. That's fun."
Green has been having plenty of fun in recent weeks, playing some of his best basketball as the Warriors continue their best stretch of the season. He racked up his sixth triple-double of the season -- 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds -- to help the Warriors get their 13th win in 18 games.
Green said the Warriors' recent run of success has shown their growth.
"Earlier in the season, we were so Steph heavy," Green said. "Everything had to be Steph, and if Steph couldn't get it going, we were kind of done. We moved the ball tonight. We didn't shoot great, but we hit the shots when they mattered."
Green acknowledged that the Warriors probably would have lost Tuesday's game by 40 points a couple of months ago, but the win took on added significance on two fronts.
First, it kept the Warriors a half-game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Second, the win came on a night when Curry went just 7-for-22 from the field and 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. That forced veterans such as Andrew Wiggins, who scored 38 points in 40 minutes, and Jordan Poole, who scored 20 points off the bench for the second game in a row, to help Curry while he was having an off night.
"Steph was getting trapped, [the Suns were] getting the ball out of his hands, and other guys were making plays," Green said. "He was trapped the entire night, so to only have three turnovers is incredible, two and three defenders was on him all night. But to his credit, he continued to move the ball and trusted other guys to make plays, and guys made those plays and that's why we were able to come away with the win."
One of those guys making big plays was Wiggins, who authored one of the best games of his brief Warriors career in carrying the offense throughout the night.
"We're a totally different team now than we were at the beginning of the year," Wiggins said. "I feel like we're only getting better. We're jelling at the perfect time."
After struggling at various points to close out wins, the Warriors have put together two of their better victories of the year against the top two teams in the West on back-to-back nights, beating the Utah Jazz on Monday and the Suns on Tuesday.
"These last two games have been so important for us," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I think they're the two teams with the best record in the league, and tonight felt like a playoff game. ... [Phoenix] came out with a great game plan to take the ball out of Steph's hands, so for us to be able to withstand a great team, playing with a lead, bottling up Steph pretty well, for us to be able to stay with it and come back and finish out the win is just fantastic."
As Green and his teammates get ready for the play-in tournament next week, they do so with even more belief that they can still win even if Curry has another tough shooting night.
Wiggins' consistency on the defensive end and steady offensive play give the Warriors hope that better days are ahead for both the 26-year-old swingman and the team.
"He's answering the bell," Green said of Wiggins. "Defensively, offensively tonight, man, he was incredible. And you could see it from the beginning. He was attacking, he was getting offensive rebounds, hitting jump shots, getting into the paint, getting into the post. He scored every way you possibly can tonight. So he continues to grow and it's been great to watch his growth.
"A guy who a lot of people had written off in his career and just kind of said, 'Oh, he'll get his 20 points and that's it.' He's really stepped up to the challenge. He carried us tonight and that was huge."