Defense, Klay Thompson fuels victory over Suns

What We Learned Defense Klay Fuel Dubs win over Suns originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors haven’t had many end-to-end wins this season, but their 123-112 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Monday capped off a brief home in the most delicious fashion.

The victory slides Golden State (36-33) to fifth in the Western Conference standings and brings its record at Chase Center to 29-7.

The Warriors shot 54.2% from the field, including 48.7% from range, with Klay Thompson torching the net 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’ win staves off a four-game season sweep at fourth-place Phoenix and puts them 1.5 games behind the Suns:

Reminder: When the defense cooks, the offense eats

Perhaps the lessons of the first 67 games have finally been learned. The Warriors, for the second straight game, took the lead in the second quarter.

And this time the gap was gargantuan: 43-21.

Thompson’s score will get plenty of love, and deservedly so, 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, took the Warriors to a 22-7 lead in just over 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 leading by as much as 25 points.

It’s a dramatic change for a team that struggled so much in the first quarter. Credit the defense, which forced six turnovers, for spoon-feeding much of the offense.

After a 28-26 first-quarter lead over the Bucks on Saturday, it’s the first time since Feb. 4 that the Warriors have won the first quarter in back-to-back games.

Klay’s fabulous first half

Anyone who has watched the Warriors over the past 11 years has seen Nuclear Klay many times, but the sight of them still sends an electric current through the building, especially when it comes to their arena.

Klay’s “splashathon”, however frequent, remains something to behold, and it was on full display in the first half, providing the sold-out crowd with several moments of euphoria.

Thompson ravaged the Suns for 33 points — the most by any Warrior in any half this season — on 12 of 18 shots from the field, including 8 of 12 from beyond the bow.

With the usual variety of shots on a Klay heater, including unlikely pitches that find the back of the net, he poured in 16 of Golden State’s first 24 points, personally beating Phoenix 16-9 at the time.

Klay finished with 38 points (14 of 23, 8 of 14) but managed to put his fingerprints on a game in which he only scored five points in the second half.

“Spurtability” Matters

The Warriors led by up to 25 points and looked poised to blast a Phoenix team missing Kevin Durant. But of course it wouldn’t be so neat and clean.

After closing the gap to 17 at halftime, the Suns continued their third-quarter assault, closing in on nine (80-71) with 7:40 left in the quarter and closing in on three (85- 82) with 4:32 left in the quarter.

Simply put, the Suns took advantage of Golden State’s drop in intensity.

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The Warriors, however, recovered well closing the quarter on an 11-4 run and taking a 98-88 lead.

That push was enough to eliminate most of the Suns’ willpower as the Warriors held a double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter to clinch the win.

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