OAKLAND, Calif. - NBA basketball is alive and well in the Bay Area. . . . and Don Nelson would be proud.
Playing small-ball in a style eerily reminiscent of Nelson’s teams in the early 1990s, Golden State outraced Phoenix to a 113-98 win before 16,433 fans and an unusually large media contingent Tuesday at The Arena in Oakland.
"It was a good old-fashioned butt-kicking," Suns coach Frank Johnson said. "The only thing good about this one is that it’s over."
Warriors coach Eric Musselman loves to use threeguard rotations to create mismatches and fast-break opportunities for his club. For the run-and-gun Suns the urge to go, go, go with the Warriors proved to be too enticing a trap.
Phoenix got hammered on the boards to the tune of a 58-41 bulge. Golden State had
more offensive rebounds in the first half (11) than Phoenix had on the defensive glass (10).
The Suns, mirroring a recent trend, also forgot to play defense, as Golden State shot 53 percent in the first half (49.4 in the game) — thanks to a bevy of layups, dunks and short jumpers — to grab a 64-52 lead at the break.
With the win Golden State closed to within 2 1 /2 games of the Suns for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
"We’re shaving it down," said Warriors forward Antawn Jamison (23 points), whose team snapped a three-game losing streak while extending the Suns’ skein to two. "Here we come, baby."
The Suns not only lost ground to Golden State. They also saw their lead over Houston for that last playoff spot slip to half a game. Houston hosts the Los Angeles Clippers tonight and hosts the Suns Sunday with a chance to win the season series 3-1 and grab a vital tiebreaker if the teams should end up deadlocked when the season concludes.
"Every game is important for us now," Johnson said. "We have to treat every one of them like it is the playoffs now."
The pivotal time of Monday’s game came late in the second period with Golden State clinging to a 57-52 lead with one minute left. Jamison scored on a dunk, then the Suns committed two straight turnovers, leading to a Jason Richardson 3-point play and a dunk by Gilbert Arenas, who had 22 points.
The Suns never did regroup in the second half against the hypedup Warriors.
By harassing Suns point guard Stephon Marbury with constant double teams and a lot of physical contact, Golden State took away Phoenix’s primary offensive weapon, holding him to 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
"They stayed on the double teams and they forced him to make some tough shots," Johnson said.
With Shawn Marion (17 points) still in the doldrums, Phoenix didn’t have enough offense to stay with the Warriors’ younger legs, despite a game-high 24 points from Amare Stoudemire.
Adonal Foyle had a season-high 20 rebounds and 16 points off the Warriors’ bench to help keep Phoenix at bay.