Dubs’ season-best start keys win vs. Suns before road trip
The crowd couldn’t stop cheering. The bench was on its feet with a plethora of celebrations. The on-court product in the first quarter was pure dominance.
After racing out to an 8-0 run to open the game against the Phoenix Suns, the Warriors led 43-21 after the first quarter. Their 22-point lead in the 69th game of the season was their biggest after one period all season long. The previous high was a 20-point lead all the way back on Nov. 27, the 21st game of the season.
The Warriors led by as many as 25 points. The Suns cut the lead to only three points twice in the third quarter. They never led once as Golden State closed out a 123-112 win, improving to 36-33 on the season and jumping to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference standings.
“Yeah, that was a great start,” coach Steve Kerr said after the win. “I think our guys were ready to roll. We’ve lost three straight games to Phoenix in the regular season. I thought tonight our guys showed the intensity right out of the gates and executed.
“That was obviously the key to the game. We were able to hold them off when they made their run, but that start was fantastic.”
In the Warriors’ wild overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, the defending champions held their first lead after the first quarter in exactly one month. They were ahead 28-26. That broke a streak of not holding a lead after one period in 11 straight games, and they trailed in 10 of those.
Monday night was a whole different scene.
A Klay Thompson 3-pointer 14 seconds into the game set the stage for him catching fire and making the home nets drip from three after three. He drained four treys in eight-plus minutes, going 7 of 9 from the field for 18 points in the first quarter. His first three games against the Suns this season, all losses, weren’t as kind to Thompson.
He scored only two points and was ejected in their first matchup. In the second, he scored 19 and was 3 of 9 on 3-point attempts. Then in the third contest, he scored 29 and made six threes — again in a loss.
The future Hall of Famer saved his best for last, finishing with a game-high 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting and 8 of 14 from beyond the arc. He wanted to guard Devin Booker. He had a demeanor in his eyes. But Thompson maintains his extra gear wasn’t about proving a point against Phoenix or the Suns’ star shooting guard.
“No, I think when you make seven of nine and have a shooting stretch like that, it tends to let out your emotions,” Thompson said. “It always feels good.”
For how great Thompson was in the first quarter, he nearly was as great in the second. Each point might have been even more important, too. As the Warriors’ offense struggled, his picturesque shooting stroke kept sinking shots.
After an 18-point first quarter, Thompson dropped 15 in the second quarter. The Warriors as a team scored 32 points in the frame. Jordan Poole had the second-most points in the second quarter for the Warriors with five.
By halftime, Thompson already had his 10th game of scoring at least 30 points. He was up to 33 on 12-of-18 shooting and 8 of 12 on 3-pointers. Thompson has scored at least 25 points in a half 24 times in his career. The Warriors are a perfect 24-0 in said games.
“I just think Klay has been in such a great place now for a while, for several months,” Kerr said. “In the two early Phoenix losses, he really struggled and showed a lot of frustration, so I know it felt good for him to have that huge first half regardless of who we were playing, but as I said, this is a division rival and a team that has beaten us in three straight.
“We knew how big of a game it was and Klay knew how big it was. He came out and set the tone.”
Much of the time this season, the tone early on has been that of Freddy Krueger running his metal-clawed brown leather glove down an old-school chalkboard. The music has been out of sync, the sounds have been ear-shattering for all the wrong reasons. Not this time, though.
They turned the ball over fewer than the Suns in their 43-point first quarter. They were called for fewer fouls, grabbed one more rebound than the Suns and handed out twice as many assists. Going unconscious shooting the ball doesn’t hurt either.
As a team, the Warriors shot 72.7 percent from the field (16 of 22) and 72.7 percent behind the 3-point line (8 of 11) in the first quarter. Along with Thompson’s 18 points, Steph Curry scored 12 and JaMychal Green had his second straight big first quarter off the bench with seven points.
This was the Warriors’ first double-digit lead after the first quarter since Feb. 4, and their fourth in 2023.
“It’s important because you want to assert yourself early and make the game as easy as possible and give yourself some life early,” Curry said. “You need to do it on the road, but even when we have been down big we fought back and found our way back into a game.
“So, we want to put together good quarters together and stack them up and we did that these last two games. Now the challenge is what we do on Wednesday.”