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PHOENIX The results have not mattered for a while. So with the Warriors locked in with the No. 2 seed for over the past week, the Warriors have shown various success with revving up their engine without exhausting too much fuel.
In their 117-100 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday, the Warriors took turns shifting into different gears.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson had a team-leading 34 points while shooting 14-of-23 from the field and 6-of-13 from 3-point range, all thanks to productive first-quarter ended with 22 points on a 9-of-11 clip and 4-of-6 mark from the perimeter. Thompson followed that up in the fourth quarter with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Thompson took more pride in his season averages from the field (48.9 percent) and from 3-point range (44 percent) over his third 30-point game of the season.
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I wouldnt say Im unstoppable. I missed some easy shots, Thompson said. Thats life. Thats basketball. But it was good to get in a good rhythm, especially with only a game left now in the regular season. You want to have great momentum going into this playoff stretch.
After going scoreless and missing his first three shots in the first quarter, Warriors forward Kevin Durant had 17points while staying efficient from the field (6-of-11), 3-point range (2-of-4) and the free-throw line (3-of-4). He also added nine assists and four rebounds.
I just like having a challenge in front of me I try to complete, Durant said. Tonight was a different one with not trying to score early and helping Klay get his shots. Everybody else moved in the offense. I like those challenges and I try to get better at them.
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Warriors forward Draymond Green continued to post near triple-double numbers in points (14), rebounds (six) and assists (five). Other double-digit contributors included Quinn Cook (12 points), JaVale McGee (11 points) and Shaun Livingston (10 points), who returned after sitting on Saturday against New Orleans with a sore right knee.
Granted, the Warriors (58-23) snapped a two-game losing streak against a Phoenix Suns team (20-61) that remains last in the Western Conference and had key absences to Devin Booker (right hand sprain), Josh Jackson (right quad contusion), Elfrid Payton (left knee) and Brandon Knight (left ACL tear). The Warriors also have defeated Phoenix for 15 consecutive games, a franchise record against any opponent that dates back to Nov. 9, 2014.
Yet, the Warriors at least showed better effort than when they lost to Indiana last week.
Then, Warriors coach Steve Kerr called out his players for providing an embarrassing effort and a pathetic effort after posting their second-worst defensive performance of the season.
It just shows who I am. Im all over the map, Kerr joked. Its been that kind of year for all of us.
Though the Warriors have stayed at the No. 2 spot because of their star-studded talent, they entered Sundays game with players missing a combined 156 games because of injuries or illnesses. The most notable included Stephen Curry, Durant, Green and Thompson during overlapping stretches within the past month. That has contributed to the Warriors going 7-9 in the last month.
Therefore, Kerr said he probably chose my words poorly following the loss to Indiana.
When I said they didnt care, that didnt mean they didnt care. What that meant to me is they didnt box out and they didnt get into the passing lanes, Kerr said. They didnt compete at a high level. When you say somebody doesnt care, that can be interpreting that as questioning their character. I think everybody knows how I feel about our guys. I love our guys. Theyre an amazing group and a championship group.
To remain that championship group, Kerr has challenged his team to rank in the top 5 in total defense. The Warriors entered Sundays game, however, ranked 17th in points allowed (107.4), though they ranked 3rd overall in defensive field-goal percentage (44.6 percent).
Its not that simple you can flip the switch. Thats why I snapped, Kerr said. You guys know me. I usually break two clipboards a year and yell at the team once. My quota is used once.
That explains Kerrs wife, Margot, citing a poem from John Dryden in the late 1600s that explains her husband: Beware the fury of a patient man. Added Kerr, Im extremely patient. But sometimes the clipboard must break.
No outbursts were needed against Phoenix, which shot only 42.4 percent from the field. Then again, the Warriors are mindful of the insignificance of their latest win beyond escaping the game without any injuries, including forward Kevon Looney absorbing a hit to the stomach in the second quarter. They at least made a step before the Warriors regular-season finale against Utah on Tuesday. After that, the real games begin.