Deandre Ayton, Suns Beat Stephen Curry, Warriors Despite Devin Booker Injury

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 1, 2021

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) shoots over Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
AP Photo/Matt York

A matchup between the NBA's two hottest and best teams ended with the host Phoenix Suns beating the Golden State Warriors 104-96 at Footprint Center on Tuesday.

A sensational Suns defense held the Warriors under 101 points for the first time all year. Golden State also committed 22 turnovers, and Warriors point guard Stephen Curry shot just 4-of-21 (3-of-14 from three-point range) for 12 points.

The Suns played most of the game without shooting guard Devin Booker, who left midway through the second quarter with a left hamstring injury.

His teammates stepped up, with Deandre Ayton leading the way with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Chris Paul added 15 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals, and Mikal Bridges added four more steals to guide the defensive effort.

Warriors guard Jordan Poole led all scorers with 28 points.

The Suns and Warriors are now tied atop the Western Conference with 18-3 records. Phoenix has won 17 straight to get there, while the Warriors' seven-game winning streak was snapped.


Notable Performances

Warriors SG Jordan Poole: 28 points, 5 rebounds

Warriors SF Otto Porter Jr.: 16 points, 6 rebounds

Warriors F Draymond Green: 8 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists

Suns PG Chris Paul: 15 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals

Suns C Deandre Ayton: 24 points, 11 rebounds

Suns SF Cameron Johnson: 14 points


Suns' Defense, Buoyed By Bridges, Overcomes Booker's Injury To Win

Things looked bleak for the Suns when Booker left the game with 5:59 left in the second quarter. At that juncture, the Warriors were leading 48-43 after opening up a nine-point lead earlier in the period.

From that moment forward, the Suns allowed just 48 points over the final 30 minutes of play, including six in the final 5:59 of the first half and 18 in the fourth quarter.

Curry had trouble getting open looks all night, with the Suns' length and defensive tenacity presenting serious problems. Ayton got out on Curry to deflect this outside shot:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

🖐 <a href="https://t.co/rhPTaRRdxd">pic.twitter.com/rhPTaRRdxd</a>

Mikal Bridges got in on the act too, blocking a Curry layup attempt:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

MIKAL BRIDGES! 🖐 <a href="https://t.co/z92N5hPxzM">pic.twitter.com/z92N5hPxzM</a>

Curry, who averaged 28.6 points per game entering Tuesday, shot just 1-of-7 from two-point range.

He wasn't the only Warrior on the wrong end of great Suns' defensive plays, as a Poole pass to Curry got deflected by Bridges before he went all the way for his only points of the game:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

Anticipate and attack. <a href="https://t.co/sZkfI4E71e">pic.twitter.com/sZkfI4E71e</a>

Bridges played 41 minutes and had as many points as turnovers (two), but this is one of those times where the box score doesn't adequately tell the story of how valuable he was on this evening.

As ESPN's Tim MacMahon and Gerald Boourguet of PHNX Sports noted:

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

Mikal Bridges just had one of the most impactful two-point performances you’ll ever see.

Gerald Bourguet @GeraldBourguet

It's wild how Mikal Bridges has 2 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds on 1-4 FG and has still been one of the most impactful players in this game

His defense in particular set the tone for the team, whether it was amassing one of his five steals or blocks or getting in Curry's face. He's even getting some Defensive Player of the Year love from Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer:

Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA

Draymond is my DPOY favorite so far this season but Mikal Bridges belongs in the conversation.<br><br>It's usually an award for bigs but Bridges has been extraordinary all season, just like tonight vs. Steph.<br><br>Somehow, Bridges is only +12000 to win it on FanDuel—the 29th-highest odds.

Meanwhile, it was a no-fly zone in the post with Ayton down low, as he blocked an Andrew Wiggins offering:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

WE SEE YOU BIG FELLA. 🖐 <a href="https://t.co/yLtPg8y35E">pic.twitter.com/yLtPg8y35E</a>

The Suns needed to win this game with a strong defensive effort to dispatch the Warriors with Booker out, as losing their sweet-shooting guard significantly hindered the offense. The beauty of this Suns team, however, is that it can win in a variety of games.

One of them is outlasting their opponent in a defensive slugfest more akin to 1990s basketball than today's game, and that's what happened Tuesday as Phoenix tied the record for the franchise's longest winning streak.


Blip on Radar Screen for Warriors

The Warriors entered this game as winners of 18 of their first 20 contests. Their two losses were by a combined seven points.

They outscored their opponents by 13.7 points per game, and their 13.6 net rating was the only one in the league in double digits, per Basketball-Reference.

An ugly loss to the Suns doesn't change the fact that the Warriors have been the most dominant team in basketball.

Curry isn't shooting 4-of-21 every night, and that might stand as his worst offensive performance of the season when the story of the 2021-22 campaign is written.

The Warriors also aren't committing 22 turnovers every night.

The fact that this was a one-possession game with under four minutes left despite their sloppiness shows that the Warriors can hang with the league's elite (on the road no less) despite failing to play anywhere near their best.

If anything, there's reason to point at some encouraging positives. Jordan Poole continues to be one of the most improved players in the NBA, as evidenced by his 16 first-quarter points:

Golden State Warriors @warriors

16 points in the first frame for Jordan Poole 💥 <a href="https://t.co/ub8dQaF2Gi">pic.twitter.com/ub8dQaF2Gi</a>

Gary Payton II continues to be an energetic and productive force off the bench, which helps the Dubs arguably sport one of the deepest second units in the league. His work on both ends is going to be a major asset come playoff time:

Golden State Warriors @warriors

Attack mode on defense.<br>Attack mode on offense. <a href="https://t.co/E1i85hv9Et">pic.twitter.com/E1i85hv9Et</a>

Golden State Warriors @warriors

Go ahead now Gary 🔨<br><br>📺 <a href="https://twitter.com/NBCSAuthentic?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBCSAuthentic</a> <a href="https://t.co/hl2NrRwUtL">pic.twitter.com/hl2NrRwUtL</a>

And Otto Porter Jr. keeps dropping buckets, as he's scored 12 or more points in four of the Warriors' last five games.

Golden State Warriors @warriors

Ottomatic <a href="https://t.co/mG5LC2TebV">pic.twitter.com/mG5LC2TebV</a>

He's now shot 21-of-41 in his last five games.

This wasn't a good evening for the Warriors, but they can take a lot of good from it knowing that they are a championship-caliber unit that can coast to 60-plus wins.


What's Next?

Phoenix will host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.

The Warriors' next game will be against Phoenix, who will visit Chase Center on Friday at 10 p.m. ET.