What we learned as Steph hits epic game-winner to beat Suns originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO – Stephen Curry made magic happen again, drilling a 32-foot 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left to rally the Golden State Warriors to a 113-112 win over former teammate Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns on Saturday at Chase Center.
Returning home following their best road trip of the 2023-24 NBA season, the Warriors (25-25) were in control most of the night against the Suns (31-22) before falling behind on Devin Booker’s layup in the fourth quarter. Following a missed 3-pointer by Bradley Beal, the Warriors called timeout before Curry came out and hit the game-winner.
The ending was delayed for several anxious moments after Andrew Wiggins initially was called for a foul on the Suns’ final possession as time ran out. The play was reviewed and the call was upheld, but because the Warriors had a foul to give, the Suns weren’t awarded any free throws. On the ensuing inbounds play, Draymond Green broke up a pass intended for Durant.
Like he normally does, Curry paced the victory with 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Curry shot 10 of 22 and made nine 3-pointers.
Jonathan Kuminga stayed on his torrid stretch with 21 points. Green had 15 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Gary Payton II added 11 points, one steal and two blocks in his return from a hamstring injury.
Klay Thompson continued to sputter offensively (five points on 2-of-10 shooting) but was one of the primary defenders on Durant. Durant, who had three 30-point games over his last five, fell just shy of a triple-double but shot just 10 of 26 and committed six turnovers.
Golden State began the day tied with the Utah Jazz for the final play-in tournament spot in the Western Conference. The two teams square off twice in the next five days.
The game was close most of the night before the Warriors pulled it out down the stretch.
Here are the takeaways from Saturday:
After dealing with injuries most of the season, the Warriors are getting closer to being back at full strength. The timing couldn’t be better, either, as Golden State is pushing to get back into the playoff conversation.
Payton made his long-awaited return after missing 16 games with a hamstring injury and was greeted with a rousing ovation the first time he checked in. Payton made all five shots he took and helped tighten Golden State’s defense that has been playing at a significantly better level in recent weeks.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr also indicated during his pregame conversation with reporters that Chris Paul will have his status re-evaluated Tuesday. Paul has not played since Jan. 5 due to a broken left hand that eventually required surgery.
Kerr has juggled different rotations and reached deeply into Golden State’s bench for help while they were short-handed. With guys getting healthy and coming back, the outlook for the final stretch of the season looks a lot more encouraging.
Green shows his growth
The last time these two teams met, Green and Phoenix’s Jusuf Nurkić were involved in the Slap Heard ‘Round the World. Green wound up serving a 12-game NBA suspension over the incident while Nurkić wound up with a hurt cheek and ego.
The two got into a minor altercation in the first quarter Saturday when Nurkić tried backing Green down. The two exchanged a few brief words, then moments later Green drew an offensive charge from the Suns’ big man.
In the past that might have been enough to set Green off, but in an example of what he learned while suspended, Green trotted back up the court while pointing to his head as if to make the point that he’s using his head now instead of feeding off his emotions.
Kuminga a key
Kuminga’s growth over the past two months has made a major impact on how the Warriors are playing on both ends. It’s no surprise whatsoever that owner Joe Lacob was hesitant to part with Kuminga at the trade deadline.
Kuminga has emerged as one of the most explosive scorers in the NBA and has reached double figures in 30 consecutive games, the longest stretch of his career. Despite being in early foul trouble, he shot 9 of 17 and had five rebounds and two assists.
In seven previous games against the Suns, Kumnga was averaging 7.3 points a game, the fourth-lowest tally he’s had against any NBA team during his career. That included a 16-point effort in Phoenix on Dec. 12.
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