It’s only November, but it felt like the Suns desperately wanted a statement win over the scorching hot Golden State Warriors.
Losing Devin Booker to a hamstring injury before halftime, Phoenix got locked-in on defence, producing an extraordinary effort on that end of the floor to shut down Steph Curry and the Golden State offense.
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The win helped the Suns extend their winning streak to a franchise-record-tying 17 games. Postgame, a smiling Deandre Ayton was asked about the team’s 17-game losing streak during his rookie campaign in 2018-19.
“See how life go?” he said with a laugh.
With Booker sidelined, the Suns could only muster 48 points after halftime, well down on the 56.2 points they average across the season on the league’s second-best efficiency per 100 possessions.
To survive, they allowed a paltry 42 points to the Warriors, with Curry in particular managing only 12 points for the entire night on 21 shots. The Warriors point total of 96 is the lowest of the season, snapping a 43-game streak of crossing the 100-point plateau.
“To hold a team like that, they way that they score, to 18 points in the fourth quarter is something we can reference,” head coach Monty Williams said.
“We’re an improving defensive team for sure but this was just will and toughness. Not a lot of scheme, not a lot of play calls, our guys just willed themselves to the victory.”
Suffocating the dynamic Warriors down the stretch, Phoenix conceded just seven points across the final 6:41 of the game, which included three turnovers as Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul all registered steals.
“The toughness, Chris playing 39 minutes speaks to his will and dedication to the game. Mikal’s defense, Steph missed some shots but I think the respect Mikal has for Steph and our team defense, we showed him bodies. We just had a number of guys step up.”
The sixth-ranked defense a season ago, the Suns have gone to a new level in 2021-22, entering tonight only behind the Warriors when it comes to defensive efficiency.
Bridges, who played the key defensive role on Curry logged 41 minutes on the night. He only managed two points on four shots, yet there he was next to Ayton in the postgame press conference with a huge smile, in the perfect illustration of the unselfishness of the group right now.
Coming into the league together via the same draft, Ayton acknowledged that 19-63 season, with the current-day version of the Suns picking up their 18th win before December.
“We wanted to turn this thing around since we got here,” Ayton said. “I wanted to start a winning legacy in Phoenix. Just having the great pieces. We’re willing to take that constructive criticism, not take it personal but learn.”
Tonight’s lesson was learning to win without Devin Booker against the top defense in the league. They passed with flying colors.