The Warriors may have played their most complete game of the year Friday night in squashing the Phoenix Suns 115-86. It was certainly their best from a defensive standpoint. They outrebounded the Suns 56-41. They outshot them 52.9 percent to 36 percent. They moved the ball and posted 32 assists, while Phoenix had 12. The Suns were 4 for 23 from 3-point range. Stephen Curry, by himself, had more rebounds than anybody on either team and he had more assists than the entire Phoenix team. He was one point shy from outscoring the young backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined.
But more than anything, the Warriors out-efforted a team that had compiled a 17-10 record largely by playing with more effort than the opposition for 48 minutes. Even the bench, led by a composed and competent Kent Bazemore, outplayed the Suns bench. It was a total pasting, and well timed as the Warriors set out on a seven-game road trip starting Sunday in Cleveland.
It’s probably unreasonable to think the Warriors could duplicate the 6-1 road trip they had last year in December, one that really catapulted them into legitimacy. It was only the most successful road trip in franchise history. But of they can play as they did Friday night — and in recent nights that now has them matching a season-best four-game winning streak == it’s not unreasonable to think the Warriors could at least go 5-2 on this trip. They’d take 4-3, probably, but considering the competition beyond the Miami Heat, there are a ton of winnable games against Eastern Conference chumps.
The Warriors just have a lot of things going for them right now, not the least of which is better health. Andre Iguodala looks close to all the way back now, and when Mark Jackson can field his optimum staring five with Harrison Barnes coming off the bench, they are 13-3, even with all the other issues they’ve had with turnovers and weak bench support.
Klay Thompson looks like he’s recovered from his shooting slump. He went 9 for 11 against the Suns after a strong effort against the Clippers. And Curry, despite a 5 for 17 shooting night with seven turnovers, was simply off the charts good. He was as good defensively as I’ve ever seen him. He distributed the ball masterfully and the 13 rebounds, well, that was ridiculous.
“Nine in the first half, I don’t think I’ve ever done that at any level of basketball,” he said. “So that was pretty crazy.”
Said Jackson, “It was spectacular. He was awfully impressing running the team, rebounding the basketball, defending at a high level, making shots. I mean, the guy’s playing at an all-time level for himself, which is saying a lot. I just like the way he competed.”
The entire team competed, right down to Hilton Armstrong getting four points, a block, a steal and an assist in garbage time. With the bench playing almost the entire fourth quarter, Golden State still outscored the Suns 30-22.
Now they head out East, with a full head of steam and an 18-13 record. By the time they return, we could be looking at them in an entirely different way. This tough road trip couldn’t come at a better time, so it should be compelling to see how they handle it.
Our young phenom Jimmy Durkin will be handling the first five games of the trip — follow him on Twitter ar @Jimmy_Durkin — while I take a week of vacation I had scheduled long before I knew I’d be doing so much Warriors in place of Marcus Thompson. I hate to surrender the reins of coverage at this juncture, but you’ll get even more steIlar coverage both digitally and in print from Jimmy, and I’ll pick up the trip at the finish, for Milwaukee and Brooklyn on back to back nights.
Bottom line, it’s a good time to be a Warriors fan right now. It doesn’t matter who’s covering them.