What we learned as Steph’s return wasted in bad loss to Suns originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay area
SAN FRANCISCO — Now that, folks, was a roller coaster of a letdown.
The Warriors on Tuesday night at Chase Center were as close to whole as they have been in over a month. With the return of Steph Curry, the Warriors’ starting lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney were sharing the court together for the first time since Dec. 2. Their opponent, the Phoenix Suns, were a shell of themselves.
At least on paper.
The Suns were without Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Cam Johnson, Landry Shamet and Cam Payne. But as the Warriors have learned countless times this season, the NBA is far from predictable — as was the case to end this eight-game homestand with a 125-113 loss.
Let’s make matters worse real quick. The short-handed Suns had been losers of six straight games, nine of their last 10 and 15 of their last 20. And they completely outplayed the Warriors for the third time this season.
In the first half, the Warriors had as many assists (nine) as turnovers. That right there told the story. There was no flow, no rhythm and not enough intention. By the time the Suns had taken 10 free throws, the Warriors were yet to attempt a single attempt from the charity stripe.
Once down by as many as 27 points, the Warriors certainly fought back. There’s no denying that. The fourth quarter had Dub Nation on its feet, and the cheers grew with each basket. But the switch can’t be flipped that late and that consistently.
Thompson led the Warriors with 29 points, followed by 27 from Jordan Poole and 24 from Curry. Trailing by 21 points through the first three quarters, the Warriors were in too deep of a hole to dig out of. They now have lost three straight at home before leaving for a five-game road trip and are 20-21 at the halfway mark of the regular season.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ 12-point loss to the Suns.
Steph’s Slow Start, Strong Finish
In his first game back, the third time truly was the charm for No. 30. Curry missed his first two shots of the night, both 3-point attempts, before draining his third. And yes, that one was from downtown too.
Curry so often this season has been able to put the Warriors on his back like the weight of the world is nothing more than a feature. Playing in his first game back since Dec. 14, some rust was expected. A whole lot of it showed up in his return before trying to will the Warriors to a win in the fourth quarter.
He finished the night scoring 24 points in 31 minutes, going 8-for-22 from the field and 5-for-15 on 3-pointers. After a slow start where he scored only five points in the first half, Curry put up 16 points in the fourth.
Rust is inevitable. For Curry, it lasted three quarters. He caught fire for a short stretch in the fourth, and should soon be back to himself.
Klay Celebrates In Style
While all the attention was on one Splash Brother’s return, another was just as giddy to also be back on the floor. Thompson was a late scratch Saturday night in the Warriors’ loss to the Orlando Magic with left knee soreness. Plus, Monday marked the one-year anniversary of him completing his comeback from two season-ending leg injuries.
Thompson’s response in the opening quarter couldn’t have been any better. Truly. He scored more than half of the Warriors’ 26 points, dropping 14 on 5-for-9 shooting from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
His second half was equally as important. Thompson totaled 13 more points in the second half to give him 29 on the night. He went 10-for-24 overall and 6-for-14 from downtown.
Though the Warriors ended their homestand with three losses in a row, Thompson had a strong six-game stretch where he has looked more and more like his old All-Star self.
What was a night to forget for the Warriors was one to remember for Damion Lee. First, the former Warrior received his championship ring from Curry, Lee’s brother-in-law, in front of a handful of friends and family members. Then, he dismantled the defending champions.
Lee played a team-high 31 minutes off the bench and scored a season-high 22 points. He feasted at the free-throw line, going 14-for-14, while also making two of his five attempts from behind the 3-point line. At the end of the first quarter, Curry’s face said it all. How?!?
The game’s two leading scorers at halftime were Thompson and Lee. Klay scored 16 points, and Lee dropped 14 off the bench for the Suns.
Over the offseason, Lee signed a one-year, $2.1 million contract with the Suns. To take the words straight out of Arizona, stop the steal. Whether it’s Warriors owner Joe Lacob or general manager Bob Myers, those in the front office have to wish that kind of contract kept Lee in San Francisco.
The 30-year-old veteran is experienced, versatile and has been automatic from deep this season. That isn’t an exaggeration, either. Lee now is 74-for-155 on 3-pointers for the season, good for a league-leading 47.7-percent clip.
Losing three straight home games is tough enough with how bad the Warriors have been on the road. Doing so with an old friend going to work is the sour cherry on top.