The Phoenix Suns have their biggest test so far this season against the number one seed in the West and their division rival, Golden State Warriors. The Warriors enter the game with the best record in basketball and currently the MVP favorite Stephen Curry.
This game not only consists of the two best records in the league, but they are also the two hottest teams, as well. The Suns have won their last 16 games, tying a franchise record for the longest winning streak with their win on Saturday in Brooklyn while the Warriors are also currently on a seven-game winning streak. What are the keys to Phoenix’s victory and claiming the one seed in the West early in the season?
Close out Shooters:
It is no surprise to state that the Warriors are one of the top three-point shooting teams in the league. Currently, Golden State ranks third in three-point shots attempted and are fourth in team three point percentage, with a team average of 36.8%. This means that a majority of their points come off of three pointers, a common theme under head coach Steve Kerr.
The Warriors roster consists of various players who can hit a three pointer uncontested. Their offense thrives off of drives and kick-outs to open shooters behind the arc. For Phoenix, defensive communication has to be a priority against the Warriors’ offensive scheme. It’s important to make sure that all shooters are covered when Draymond Green and Steph Curry drive to the hoop to prevent the “bread and butter” of their offense.
This also means communication on recognizing where shooters are. Phoenix must communicate with each other throughout the game on the offensive side to make sure they can close out on shooters up and down their lineup.
Limit Fast Break Points:
The Warriors are also at the top of the NBA’s defensive ratings, in no small part due to their roughly ten steals per game, which leads the league. Due to the number of turnovers Golden State forces, they are able to play their fast-break offense to a strong level of success, ranking second in fast-break points per game.
The Warriors also look to run after getting a rebound on the defensive side. Without a true star center, they rank fifth in rebounds per game. Golden State rebounds and gets out on the break quickly to score easy baskets.
For the Suns, limiting turnovers and making sure to get back on defense are two main factors in slowing down the Warriors’ quick tempo. The Suns may consider slowing the pace down, making sure they protect the ball and keep Golden State in a half-court set. When it comes down to the Xs and Os, the Suns’ half-court offense is stronger than Golden State’s due to the playmaking abilities of all players in Phoenix’s rotation. Limiting the Warriors’ transition offense can take them out of their style of play, benefitting Phoenix in front of their home crowd.
Make Steph Curry uncomfortable:
Right now, Steph Curry is arguably the best player on the planet. He currently is averaging 28.6 points, tied with Kevin Durant for points per game with 46.6% from the field and 42.2% from three. This includes back-to-back games of over 30 points entering Tuesday’s game.
Phoenix’s defensive stars are more than capable of keeping Curry from having a monster night. This consists of Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder. For the Suns, keeping Curry uncomfortable should be an important strategy for Monty Williams.
By changing who Curry is guarded by possession by possession, the defensive tendencies and differences that come with it can definitely keep him from finding his rhythm and it must force other Warrior players to step up around him, something Phoenix should live with defensively. Taking Curry out of rhythm will definitely give Phoenix an advantage.
So far, this is the game of the season for the NBA. Not only is it the two best teams record-wise playing each other, it’s also the first of four times these two powerhouses in the West will play each other. Every game between Phoenix and Golden State will be important for how the West shapes out when the playoffs come around. Tip-off in Phoenix on Tuesday will be at 8 p.m. Mountain Time.