SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — The Golden State Warriors were certain that Stephen Curry’s comeback would be exactly what they needed to capitalise on the momentum they had built earlier in their homestand without him.
They’d gotten their finest player back. For the first time since December 3, their starting lineup — the league’s greatest five-man unit — was complete. They were up against an undermanned and struggling Phoenix Suns squad.
Instead, the Warriors resembled the club they were before Curry went down with a left shoulder subluxation, losing 125-113 to the Suns.
“I believe we relaxed a little bit more than we should have with Steph and [Andrew Wiggins] returning,” Golden State guard Klay Thompson said. “With them turning up, we figured we’d simply get the dub.”
But it was clear that Curry and Wiggins had dust to brush off.
Curry, who was hurt on Dec. 14 and missed 11 games, wore a shooting sleeve on his left arm that spanned from his shoulder to his wrist. He stated he played well physically and didn’t worry about his shoulder throughout the game, which was critical for him to accomplish in order to be cleared to play.
Curry stated on Friday that he didn’t believe his fitness suffered too much during his hiatus, and although he played 31 minutes Tuesday night, he conceded that playing under a minute limit hampered his ability to establish his flow.
Knowing he’d only be playing for short stints, he said there was some pressure to recapture his form in a short period of time, which he sought to manage while being in the flow of the game.
“How much rust you will have and how near you can get to the tempo of the game is hit or miss,” Curry remarked. “It felt amazing simply to be out there sprinting with our guys in the first quarter. I felt like I became stronger as the game progressed. The intensity of the game increased in the fourth quarter. We were really trying to get back into the game and make some plays. I was back to myself.”
In the fourth quarter, Curry scored 16 of his 24 points. In 31 minutes, he shot 8-of-22 from the field, including 5-of-15 from three.
Wiggins ended with 10 points in his second game back from an adductor strain and subsequent injury, but he did it on 5-of-16 shooting and lacked the aggressiveness and rhythm he had before his layoff.
Thompson began the game well, scoring 14 of his 29 points in the first quarter before slowing down.
Jordan Poole scored 27 points in his first game off the bench since December 3.
Curry scored three straight 3-pointers with little over four minutes remaining in the game to give the squad new hope. After trailing by as much as 27, a Poole layup, a stop, a Poole 3 and another stop brought the Warriors within six points.
Curry was called for a foul after the break, sending Damion Lee to the line and giving the Suns a three-possession lead. Those free throws proved to be the deciding factor.
“I’m hoping that the fourth quarter was the Warriors that I’ve come to know, love, and appreciate,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “However, we must demonstrate in the first quarter, not the fourth.”
The fourth quarter, according to Curry, demonstrated the Warriors’ “level of attention, togetherness, toughness, high IQ basketball” and what they know is required to win.
However, the Warriors’ offence was disorganised and their defence was practically nonexistent in the opening three quarters. Phoenix finished the first quarter on a 10-0 run and led by 14 points at halftime. The Warriors trailed the Suns by 27 points despite the absence of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Johnson, and Cameron Payne.
“I’ve got to do a better job of delivering the smack in the face that Phoenix delivered to us,” Kerr said. “One side, like Phoenix, has an emotional advantage and sets the tone straight immediately. That is all that is required.”
Both Kerr and Thompson agreed that Tuesday’s game should serve as a reminder to the Warriors that no matter how healthy their roster is or how thin their opponent’s roster is, there are no easy games in the NBA.
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