OAKLAND -- It was playoff basketball. That's how the Warriors approached the Phoenix Suns, in beating them 113-107 on Sunday night. The Warriors played serious basketball. Hard. Relentless. Beautiful basketball.
Sure, the Warriors fell behind by 12 points, but it was a mere early phase, like adolescence. The Warriors always were in the game, always were poised to make a move on their division rival, the Suns who started the game one spot behind them in the playoff hunt, the Suns hungry, the Suns good. The Suns not good enough.
So, linger over the turning point, the moment the Warriors took over.
After playing from behind, after walking in mud for 2 ? quarters, they took the lead, 74-73, with 7:05 left in the third quarter on a Klay Thompson 3-pointer, the stroke perfect, the arc perfect.
After another lead change, the charge began, the Warriors' charge so familiar by now. Thompson coming off screens and hitting jumpers just like that, David Lee laying in the ball with his right hand no less, Lee driving to the hoop and dishing off to Draymond Green. Dunk. The crowd going nuts. Everything so easy. The world a lovely place.
It's like at a certain point the Warriors broke through a rigid barrier, a steel barrier, and entered a meadow, free and open, bathed in sunlight, a light breeze kissing their faces.
Why did this happen?
Because the Warriors went small. They pulled big men Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O'Neal, and shoved Lee into the center position and told him to go get the Suns. If the Warriors had stayed big they would have lost. They went small and won.
They did more than win. They cavorted. And the Suns, who had every advantage early, who had owned the game, started to complain, their great point guard Goran Dragic looking like a kid pouting when things weren't going the his way. The Suns' jumpers started hitting iron and the sound of clunk filled the arena, the Suns blowing it.
At the end of the third quarter, the kill quarter, the Suns' Ish Smith drove the hoop as time expired. Thompson slammed his hand on top of the ball and knocked the ball back to Smith, stuffed him. Smith never got off a shot. It's like Thompson said, "Stay away from here. "You are not welcome."
The Warriors outscored the Suns 38-17 in the third quarter, although the word "outscored" hardly describes what they did.
And the whole thing felt inevitable. That's what inspired the awe, the feeling the Warriors couldn't lose, that a win was fate, or something like that. When the Warriors get started, you can't hold them back. And even though the game got close at the end, it was desperation close from the Suns' point of view. They were not going to take the lead. They were not going to win.
You probably know Stephen Curry played hurt. Not dying-on-the-court hurt. Not take-out-your-hankies-and weep hurt. Just a touchy right quad. He injured it in Boston. Before the game, coach Mark Jackson said he would limit Curry's minutes, not that he did. Curry played 30 minutes. So, Curry being on the court was a key to the win.