Game Thread: Warriors at Suns - the ultra rare two-sided back-to-back

Both teams come in on the second night of a back-to-back? Let's get messy!

Stock on Wiggins island is rising faster than Gamestop, and the Warriors newly revised starting lineup has been paying big dividends for coach Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors.

[shout out to Daniel Hardee, whose voice is sorely missed around here while he heals up some wrist issues caused by slaving away for hours on cool graphics and entertaining videos for us]

Fresh off a couple of wins, the Warriors are headed right into Phoenix for their first matchup of the season against the newly powerful Suns. Their wattage is a bit reduced for this game, as they’ll be playing without leading scorer, Devon Booker (hamstring); as well as Dario Šarić (Covid protocols).

While the Suns have lost four of their last five, including last night’s 97-102 loss against the Thunder, the Warriors are coming off a couple of feel-good victories over Andrew Wiggins’ old team. It’s a success that goes deeper than just the win column though: Wiseman and others are beginning to show steady improvements.


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (10-8) at Phoenix Suns (8-8)

WHEN: Thursday, January 28th, 2021 // 7:00 pm PST

WATCH: TNT; NBCSBA


Gazing at the Suns

After making a splash in the bubble last season, the Phoenix Suns revamped their roster by importing a couple of wily veterans in Chris Paul and Jae Crowder. With these fresh new (old) faces, the Suns are positioned as one of the better teams in the Western conference mid-tier playoff hunt.

The big news heading in is that the Suns are likely playing without dynamic scoring guard, after Devon Booker went down with a gimpy hamstring in a double OT game over the weekend.

So for now, the ball handling duties will fall heavily on Chris Paul and his own embrittled hamstrings, but this Suns team is far from bereft of weapons.

Most notably, young center Deandre Ayton is on a tear. Though he didn’t play well in the Suns’ last game against the Thunder, check out his previous four outings:

The Warriors’ newly jiggled center rotation is going to be put to the test here. Kevon Looney and James Wiseman will get plenty of support from Draymond Green and the rest of the Warriors defenders - and they’ll need it!

Unpacking the Timberwolves series: Dubs rounding into shape

Coming in to this season, without Klay Thompson, the general consensus for the Warriors outlook was low to mid tier playoff team. The fact that the Warriors have managed as many wins as they have - while taking an additional big loss when Marquese Chriss went down with a season-ending injury - is impressive.

Through a combination of internal improvement, and a softening schedule, Golden State looks to be slowly figuring things out.

Development is a tricky thing. The slippery slope of progress is strewn with broken dreams as well as discarded chrysalides; and while players are struggling up the ramp, it’s impossible to tell which of the two they’ll drop.

After the first Warriors dynasty fell, this franchise cleared out the rubble and immediately set to rebuilding around the core of Curry, Green, and Thompson. With a limited budget, and an eye for the future, Golden State’s architectural drawings have been heavily scrutinized. This man hears your doubts, but it’s a mild din in the background, covered by the cacophony of a drum banged with handfuls of championship rings.

It’s not just at the wings, where Kerr’s patience with Oubre is beginning to pay dividends - Wiseman turned in a career high last night, coming in off the bench.

With 25 points (a new career-high that will surely get bested again soon), 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks, Wiseman led the charge in the last win over Minnesota. And even though the Timberwolves are an objectively bad team, they’re still an NBA squad that almost managed to come back from double-digit deficits in both games. In the first game, the run was squashed by Curry’s explosion; but last night, it was more of a group effort.

This is the Strength In Numbers vision that has worked so well for Golden State during Kerr’s tenure. As often as guys like Omri Casspi and Jacob Evans failed to find traction, the vast bulk of evidence points towards Kerr and the Warriors knowing what they’re doing.

It’s a long season, and an even longer haul to Klay Thompson’s return. The Warriors moved Wiseman to the bench, and signaled that this team isn’t content to throw the season away to prioritize development of a future cornerstone, but development is happening here, up and down the roster.

Buy that Wiggins stock. Go all in on Oubre. Marvel at young Wiseman’s excellence. The Warriors are planning for the future, while also thriving in the now, so let’s go ahead and enjoy this ride!

Predictions

Both teams coming in on the tail end of a back-to-back, and both playing with shortened rosters makes me think we are going to see some messy moments of basketball tonight. I like the Warriors chances against any Chris Paul team, and as long as Golden State can keep it close, I know they can put the Suns away in the 4th.

Interestingly, the Warriors are second-best in the NBA in 4th quarter scoring (just a whisper behind the Nets); the Suns? Dead last.

Let’s go! Warriors win their third in a row: 108-103.