NBA teams, even good ones that win 50-plus games, can go through an entire regular season and accumulate only a handful of truly “good” wins. The Golden State Warriors’ 116-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Christmas qualifies as a really good win.
Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, two starters, were out for the Warriors. The Suns, who entered the game with the league’s best record, were playing at more or less full strength. The Warriors were on the road. On Christmas. Anxious to get home, where they’ll have a couple of days off with their families.
Stephen Curry missed 11 of his 16 3-pointers and shot just 37 percent overall. The Suns played very well. As far as regular-season victories go, Golden State can hang its hat on that kind of performance.
With the win, the Warriors improved to 27-6 on the season with 2-1 head-to-head advantage against Phoenix thus far. The two teams have one more game remaining, on March 30.
The best Phoenix can do is tie the season series. For the tiebreaker edge alone, which could determine home-court advantage in a potential playoff series between what has been the league’s two best teams to this point, this was a big win.
It speaks to Curry’s impact that he can shoot that poorly and still end up a plus-24 for the game. His 33 points were his career-high on Christmas.
I love that he offset his shooting struggles by attacking off the dribble. He has struggled to finish in the paint this year; he was better on Saturday, and he got himself to the free-throw line nine times, hitting eight. Curry is taking more 3-pointers than he has at any point in his career, but it behooves him not to forget about the other two levels of scoring, if for rhythm purposes only.
As the Suns employed the familiar defensive strategy of selling out to contain Curry, Otto Porter, who is looking like one of the league’s better low-level offseason pickups (he’s on a minimum contract), put the finishing touches on this win for the Warriors, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, including 10 in the final five minutes and the game’s final seven points.
The Warriors have the best defense in the league and Curry is a top-tier MVP candidate. They are close to getting Klay Thompson and James Wiseman back. I don’t think they can win a title unless Curry starts shooting more consistently than he has this season, but we’ve already seen plenty of evidence that this Warriors team can win and win big under varying conditions. They showed that again on Christmas.