SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors haven’t had many wire-to-wire wins this season, but their 123-112 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Monday closed a brief homestand in the most delightful fashion.
The victory slides Golden State (36-33) into fifth place in the Western Conference standings and pushes its record at Chase Center to 29-7.
The Warriors shot 54.2 percent from the field, including 48.7 percent from distance, with Klay Thompson torching the nets for a game-high 38 points, while Stephen Curry finished with 23 and Jordan Poole added 20.
Here are three observations from a game in which the Warriors’ victory avoids a four-game season sweep to fourth-place Phoenix and puts them 1.5 games behind the Suns:
Reminder: When defense cooks, offense eats
Maybe the lessons of the first 67 games finally have been learned. The Warriors, for the second consecutive game, took a lead into the second quarter.
And this time the margin was gargantuan: 43-21.
Thompson’s scoring will get a lot of love, deservedly, but it was Golden State’s defense that once again set the tone for the first quarter. The Suns missed their first four shots and seven of their first 10. That, along with four turnovers, allowed the Warriors to take a 22-7 lead in a little more than six minutes.
While limiting Phoenix to 38.1 percent shooting from the field for the quarter, the blazing Warriors were at 72.7 percent and led by as much as 25 points.
This is a dramatic change for a team had so much trouble in first quarters. Credit the defense, which forced six turnovers, for spoon-feeding much of the offense.
Coming after a 28-26 first-quarter lead over the Bucks on Saturday, this is the first time since Feb. 4 that the Warriors won the opening quarter in consecutive games.
Klay’s fabulous first half
Anyone who has watched the Warriors over the past 11 years has seen Nuclear Klay many times, yet the sight of it always sends a current of electricity through the building, particularly when it’s their home arena.
The Klay “splashathon,” no matter how often, remains something to behold, and it was on full display in the first half, providing the sellout crowd with several moments of euphoria.
Thompson ravaged the Suns for 33 points – the highest total by any Warrior in any half this season – on 12-of-18 shooting from the field, including 8 of 12 from beyond the arc.
With the usual variety of shots on a Klay heater, including improbable launches that find the bottom of the net, he poured in 16 of Golden State’s first 24 points, personally outscoring Phoenix 16-9 at that point.
Klay finished with 38 points (14-of-23, 8-of-14) but managed to put his fingerprints on a game in which he scored only five points in the second half.
The Warriors led by as much as 25 points and seemed on their way to an utter blowout of a Phoenix team missing Kevin Durant. But of course, it’s wouldn’t so neat and clean.
After slicing the margin to 17 at the half, the Suns continued their assault in the third quarter, coming within nine (80-71) with 7:40 left in the quarter and getting as close as three (85-82) with 4:32 left in the quarter.
Put simply, the Suns took advantage of Golden State’s declining intensity.
The Warriors, however, recovered nicely by closing the quarter on an 11-4 run and taking a 98-88 lead.
That spurt was enough to take most of the will out of the Suns, as the Warriors maintained a double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter to button up the victory.