Programming note: Warriors-Suns coverage begins on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area with Warriors Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Watch Warriors Postgame Live after the final buzzer. Channel listings.
A lot has changed since the Warriors played the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 20 -- a game that coach Mark Jackson dubbed “the biggest game of the season.”
At the time, Golden State was riding a season-long six-game losing streak, had dropped to the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference standings, and its once all-but-assured playoff spot was anything but.
“I talked about it being the biggest game of the season for us and I loved the way my guys came out and sent the message to say that’s exactly what it was,” Jackson said following the 108-98 win.
As the Warriors (43-32) head into Saturday’s game at Phoenix looking for a four-game season sweep of the Suns, their circumstances have improved significantly.
With seven games left in the regular season, it’s no longer about if the Warriors will qualify for the postseason, it’s about what seed they’ll get and what team they’ll play. Utah is still mathematically capable of taking the final spot from Golden State, but it would take a monumental collapse considering the Warriors’ 4 ½ game lead. Their magic number sits at three.
[RELATED: NBA standings]
Phoenix (23-52) comes into Saturday’s game losers of its past seven games and the owner of the Western Conference’s worst record.
With a full-fledged tanking effort on display, not only have the Suns been losing, they’ve been largely uncompetitive. The Suns have lost 13 of their last 15 games and in those losses have been outscored by an average of 16.9 points per game.
The Warriors have won ten of 14 games, but haven’t won three straight since their win against the Suns on Feb. 20 was followed by wins against San Antonio and Minnesota. They’ve won back-to-back games fives times since then and on the first four occurrences, a loss followed.
As the Warriors look to make it three straight, guard Klay Thompson will look to break out of his biggest scoring slump in over a year. The second-year guard hasn’t scored in double figures the last three games -- the first time that’s happened since he’s been a fixture in the starting lineup -- and has been a combined 6-of-30 from the field in that span.
“At the end of the day, I’ll take him shooting open jump shots every day of the week. I don’t care how many he misses,” Jackson said. “I’m not going to tell him to stop shooting. He’s a natural born shooter and I believe in his ability to knock down shots.
“He’s going to win games for us when they matter.”
Despite his struggles from the field, Thompson’s has found a way to affect the game positively for Golden State. He was a team-high plus-22 in the team’s win against New Orleans on Wednesday in 36 minutes and has become the team’s best perimeter defender.