PHOENIX –- The final game before the All-Star break unfolded predictably for the NBA’s runaway express, delivering a fitful mix of the wonderful and the worthless.
That such a performance came against the utterly defective and dysfunctional Suns allowed the Warriors to get away with it. It’s exceedingly hard to lose the Phoenix, and the Warriors did enough good to ensure they wouldn’t.
“We did what we had to do,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday night, after 112-104 win that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. “It wasn’t our best effort, but I told them before the game to keep to turnovers down, just be solid and we should be fine. And for the most part, we did a good job of taking care of the ball.
“We didn’t do much else that well, but it was enough.”
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A former player, Kerr understood the forces at work leading up to this game. A few players would be moving on the All-Star Weekend in Toronto –- a postgame charter jet awaited arrival of the Warriors’ traveling party. The rest of the players and staff would head for exotic locales or, for some, the comforts of family and friends.
These circumstances are not conducive to stingy defense or a fully focused offense, the things that have pushed the Warriors to their astonishing record (48-4) and has them going into the break on an 11-game win streak.
“Most guys have already ‘checked out’ before the last game comes,” Kerr said. “So I was a little worried.”
The worry lifted a bit in the second quarter, when the Warriors went on a 16-0 run that hiked their two-point lead to 16. The rest of the game was, for the Warriors, spent toying with a Suns team that made a couple modest runs but simply lack the resources to shock the defending champions.
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Moreover, the Suns lack the will necessary to make this a truly close game. Two players, forward Markieff Morris and guard Archie Goodwin, engaged brief skirmish during a first-quarter timeout. That’s the kind of season it has been for this once-proud franchise.
The Warriors, floating on the Good Ship Harmony, saw a weakling and, rather than punching it out, basically pinned it to a wall. It was, on the whole, a rather humane way to win a game.
Steph Curry (26 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) did more than his share, Klay Thompson (24 points, five steals) played the capable sidekick and everybody else kind of alternated between submitting quality NBA hoops and the level generally played in open gym.
Even that, as you might expect, was enough to impress the Suns.
“Best team in the league,” Morris marveled. “It’s tough. The starters didn’t even play the fourth quarter. They’re tough to beat. They’ve got the juice right now.”
That the Warriors didn’t bring their strongest “juice” was irrelevant. They defended when it mattered, forcing 18 turnovers and turning them into 22 points. That offset the fact they were outshot (44.1 percent to 41.6) by the Suns, who are allowing opponents to shoot 47.2 percent from the floor.
The Warriors can live with that, because they won on the scoreboard. They can accept less, under these conditions, because they know where they stand as a team, which is atop the NBA.
“It’s pretty satisfying,” Curry said of the first 52 games. “We handled a lot of different challenges pretty well in the first half of the season and we got to a high level of consistency and everybody is contributing.
“So we want to get refreshed over the break and try to sustain it the rest of the season and into the playoffs.”