Normally if you have a TNT primetime game between Kevin Durant and Steph Curry that is within three points in the last minute, that meant it was a classic shootout right?
Kevin Durant and the Suns faced, and benefited, from another Scott Foster masterclass in what was possibly the wildest NBA game you will see in the 2023-24 season.
Let's recap, because I am not even sure what just happened.
The game began fairly normally, with Klay Thompson and Durant trading blows early on. The Warriors led by five after the first quarter, but Phoenix responded with a 37-16 second quarter that gave them a healthy lead at the half.
Unfortunately for the Warriors and their fans, the issue wasn't the Suns 14 point lead at halftime but the ejection of Chris Paul that happened with 23 seconds remaining in the 1st half.
After being called for a foul on Kevin Durant, Paul had some words for his good friend Scott Foster. Those words, ended in a technical foul, which led to even more kind words from Paul, a noted advocate of Foster's.
After expressing his love and admiration for Foster, Paul was expressly tossed from the game and enter Steve Kerr to support his new point guard, resulting in a technical for Kerr as well. After Booker shot the multitude of technical free throws, the Sun had a healthy lead and the healthy momentum.
"It's personal, we had a situation some years ago... I'm ok with a ref talking, saying whatever, just don't use a tech to get your point across," said Paul after the game.
And here is the part where, normally, Steve Kerr would rely on Curry, Thompson and his veterans to make a run in the third quarter. Golden State has historically been a third quarter team, with third quarter Klay and all, right?
Wrong, yet again.
Not a single one of the starters for Golden State posted a positive plus/minus on Wednesday night, and Steve Kerr noticed. So, whether it was to prove a point or try and salvage some positivity on a weird night, Kerr played his bench for almost the entire second half.
Dario Saric, Jonathan Kuminga, Corey Joseph, Moses Moody and Brandon Podziemski all registered at least 20 minutes, the majority of which came in the second half. But here's the thing: the 2nd unit played significantly better than Golden State's starters.
Not only did Saric and company play with notably better effort on defense, the Warriors bench ran in transition and created offense out of their impressive defensive effort. Led by Saric, the Warriors ran the dribble hand-offs normally designed for Draymond Green and Curry, but with Saric and Podziemski.
And here's where it gets even weirder.
As Richard Jefferson noted on the broadcast, the Warriors lulled the Suns to sleep in the third quarter, enough for Golden State to bring Curry and Thompson in to try and get the game back, Except, when Curry and Thompson entered, the Suns woke up and extended their lead again, Kerr removed his stars, and the Warriors bench went on another run.
The Warriors brought the game all the way back to 118-115 with 19 seconds remaining, and the entire time Steve Kerr left his future Hall of Fame players on the bench. Frank Vogel brought Durant and Booker back into the game in the last few moments to close out the contest, but you'd have to imagine the Suns are not happy about unnecessary minutes being played by their two stars.
Although the Warriors ended up losing by eight, there are a few remaining notes to be mentioned. The officiating dominated this game, even excluding the five technical fouls handed out, with a wild 56 fouls being called. The Warriors only shot 29 of the 81 free throws awarded in the game, which is only the amount that Durant and Booker shot by themselves.
On the flip side, Kerr has to be thrilled with the effort from his reserves. Seeing Moody, Kuminga and his young players hold their own against one of the best teams in the Western Conference is an incredible feeling for a coach facing a difficult stretch without veteran Draymond Green.
Up Next for the Warriors:
Golden State will head back home to face Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs at home on Friday. Green has one game left in his five game suspension, and the Warriors are anxiously awaiting the return of one of their top playmakers. At 7-9, Curry and company have an uphill climb in the West, and they need their veterans to return to championship form if they want to stop slipping and sliding down the standings.