One quarter into Sunday’s matchup with the lowly Suns, two days removed from a stellar victory, the Warriors looked to have turned the corner with their effort.
Golden State (45-21) came out with the same energy they showed against the Nuggets Friday night, and appeared well on the way to putting Phoenix (16-52) away early.
But that energy waned, as did the Warriors’ 3-point stroke, and what ensued was an ugly 115-111 loss to the worst team in the Western Conference.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.
After hitting three shots from deep and outscoring the Suns 29-16 in the first quarter, the Warriors connected on just seven 3’s the rest of the way and were outscored by 17.
They ended the game shooting just 10-of-43 from deep and Steve Kerr had an easy answer for their troubles there:
“Karma. When you don’t deserve to win in terms of execution, energy, connection, the ball doesn’t go in. I like that about basketball. You tend to earn things. Earn points, earn rebounds, you earn a win. We didn’t earn a win, that’s the bottom line.”
Klay Thompson showed out early, scoring 19 of his 25 in the first half after going for 27 in the first half just one game ago. But like every player in a Warriors uniform went deathly cold in the second half, and also finished with a game-high six turnovers.
In another case of déjà vu, Stephen Curry labored on the offensive end. He hit his pregame tunnel shot on the first try, but didn’t hit a field goal on the court until seven minutes into the second quarter — and didn’t hit his first 3 until nine minutes into the third.
He finished with 18 points, but on just 6-of-20 from the field and a disgusting 4-of-15 from 3, almost all of which were on wide open looks.
Curry wasn’t worried about him or Thompson being cold from the outside:
“One game, you miss shots. We took [shots] we thought we could make, if they go down this could be a totally different conversation, so I don’t want to overreact to that. It’s just one of those nights.”
On the other end, Devin Booker was the best player on the floor for much of the game, and over the last nine minutes scored 17 of his 37 points, while pitching in 11 assists and eight rebounds.
Kevin Durant tried to match that production, but finished with 25 before he had to leave the contest after rolling his right ankle midway through the fourth — he was diagnosed with an ankle contusion.
The Warriors were outplayed at each position all night. The Suns played with more energy and came up with all the hustle plays down the stretch.
Thompson said that even teams that are out of the playoff race are still going to go out and play hard:
“They’re playing for their jobs, you think they are just going to quit? Heck no. Those guys got pride too, everyone in this league does. And just because you’re losing games doesn’t mean those guys aren’t playing hard.”
Those lineups that they play at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters without Curry and Durant once again weren’t able to hold any type of lead.
Kerr said that the staff is going to have to look at switching the personnel around in those situations:
“We look at some possible alterations to that group, and just the overall substitution patterns. We always look at things, if we’re not playing well it’s an easier time to look at everything and see if there’s a change to be made to help us out.”
It’s the same story that’s been told over this whole season. And it’s the same thing that the whole team talks about after each loss.
While in the grand scheme of things this is still just a loss in March that’s being talked about here.
But these same problems have been here all season, and it’s tough to imagine the team being able to completely change once the playoffs begin.
Kerr said after Friday’s game that his team would not be able to change their habits in just one game, and that was clearly evident Sunday.
And with just 16 games left in the regular season, they are running out of games to figure it out.
A four-game road trip now awaits the Warriors. The first stop is another matchup with the suddenly hot Houston Rockets Wednesday, winners of eight straight. The Rockets have climbed to third in the Western Conference standings and sit five games back of Golden State.
This loss snaps what had been a streak of 18 straight Warriors wins over the Phoenix Suns.
Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.