Steph Curry and Draymond Green lead the Warriors to a thrilling victory over the Suns
SAN FRANCISCO — Brandin Podzemski, the rookie Steve Kerr has entrusted as a high-leverage inside linebacker, saw Bradley Beal move around a Draymond Green screen and jump in the direct passing lane between Podzemski and Steph Curry. But Podzemski said there was never a chance it would be passed to anyone but Carey.
So he got creative, launching a deflected curveball several feet to Curry’s left, avoiding Bell but making life difficult for Curry, who needed to cut off a short one-handed jumper.
“If you look at the replay, I’m like: ‘Oh, s-“Podzemski said, stepping back in fear that his pass was destined for a turnover.
Curry cleaned it, spun it and released it in one smooth motion, then got it out before Devin Booker could fly into the picture. The shot salvaged what was another near-heartbreak for the Golden State Warriors in their last game, a 113-112 win over the Phoenix Suns, as the team posted a 25-25 record through 50 games.
Even after Curry went down in Game 3’s ninth — his 20th man has made three of 32 attempts over the past two games — he had little hesitation in celebrating. He noticed that there was 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
“You know the way our season went, 0.7 seconds felt like an eternity,” Curry said.
Andrew Wiggins made a 3 with 1.4 seconds left against the Thunder in November to take the lead. Chet Holmgren hit a fadeaway goal on the ensuing inbounds ball to take home the win. Last week, Curry hit a 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left in double overtime to take a one-point lead over the Lakers. LeBron James worked his way into foul play moments later and hit both free throws.
“Steve hit a few shots like that down the stretch this year, and we couldn’t close them down defensively,” Green said.
It was not a painless final 0.7. On the Suns Inbound, Wiggins was called for a grappling foul while trying to fight Devin Booker’s post. The Warriors disputed the call. Wiggins thought Booker had attracted him. But they had no deadline, which meant they could not challenge.
Officials went to the screen to determine if Wiggins had fouled Booker before returning. If it had been, it would have been one free throw for Phoenix (to tie it) and the possession. But because the foul was after the pass had left the hand, it was ruled on the ground. The Warriors had a foul to call, so the Suns didn’t get two free throws.
The last incoming came with 0.6 seconds left in the game. Phoenix tried to loft the ball over the top to Kevin Durant. The Warriors put green on him. He knocked it away and told the Sun so.
Green’s last stand was a fitting way to end the game. His return to the lineup turned their season around. They went from the 29th defense in the NBA without him to a top 10 defense with him.
They received an extra boost of energy and length with the return of Gary Payton II on Saturday. Payton guarded Durant, Booker and Beal at various points in his 14-minute stint, and worked his way to 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting on the other end.
“His defense, his speed, his pressure on the ball,” Kerr said of Payton. “We put him on Kevin a little bit and once he got into the game. He got a quick snap, knocked down a three. You just feel him there. That’s why he’s a fan favorite.”
Curry finished with 30 points. Jonathan Kuminga continued his rise as the team’s second-leading scorer, hanging around the rim and complementing Curry with 21 points. Wiggins had 12 points and two steals and endured long turnovers on the Phoenix scoring trio. Podziemski was the fifth member of the closing lineup once again, replacing the struggling Klay Thompson.
But it was Green’s electricity that ignited the Warriors once again. He got into it multiple times with Jusuf Nurkic, the player he hit back in December, resulting in an indefinite suspension that escalated the season and put him under a closer microscope.
Green has remained out of the league’s crosshairs since his return. He had no technicals and no fouls in his first 10 games. He received his first technical on Saturday, shouting an and-1 after taking a corner kick without a whistle. However, in his interactions with Nurkic, he chirped and stomped and taunted again, but he never went over the edge.
“We need him competitively,” Kerr said. “Draymond, if he’s negative, we might not play him. Everything with him is about his strength, his energy, his competitiveness. That’s what makes him unique and what makes him a great player. We want him to walk the line but we don’t want him to cross the line. Technique, I’m fine with it. A flagrant foul.” “He’s fine. But he has to stop there.”
After the game, Nurkic made headlines with the audio clip below, saying Green hadn’t learned anything and it was a matter of time before he hit someone else.
One of the game’s most notable sequences came in the third quarter after Nurkic hit a hook shot and paused for a long, “tiny little” celebration, hitting the ground twice for emphasis. Green passed him a message shortly after and returned it.
“You can’t be a nothing defender if you’re going to do that,” Green said. “He was 70 pounds outweighing me and was put on edge? We should be more careful.”
Curry watched Nurkic’s audio clip before conducting his postgame media session, calling the comments “stupid” before defending Green.
“Draymond was in his head,” Curry said. “Plain and simple.”
With this victory, the Warriors moved to tenth place in the Western Conference, half a game behind the Utah Jazz, the team they will face twice in Salt Lake City this week. They are 4 1/2 games behind the Suns in sixth place, which is their target spot in the standings.
“I think the defensive improvement over the past two weeks will help us finish games like this,” Kerr said.
(Photo of Draymond Green and Steph Curry: John Hefty/USA Today)
(Tags for translation)Golden State Warriors(T)Phoenix Suns(T)NBA