The Golden State Warriors notched impressive wins over the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder the past week, but it was a shocking loss to the lowly Phoenix Suns on March 10 that had the biggest impact on the team.
"I think the loss to Phoenix opened our eyes a little bit," head coach Steve Kerr said after Saturday's 110-88 win over the Thunder, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. "And I think our guys just felt threatened on the road. We've played two great teams, we've got another one, maybe the hottest team in the league in San Antonio coming up, so anytime they're threatened, I think our guys tend to play better."
Steph Curry also spoke about the Phoenix loss and the team's reaction to it:
"That game wasn't great by any stretch. Especially having beat Denver right before when we were starting to build that momentum. At this point in the season, whatever you can kind of hold onto to create those challenges and just the expectation of playing a game like we did tonight. On the road, these last two games we wanted to start off with the right intentions, the right focus, obviously understanding with [Kevin Durant] out we're a little different. So our energy and intensity has to be there because you're missing 28 points out there on the floor. It's hard to replace that."
Durant has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, but Curry and Klay Thompson have picked up the slack. Curry is averaging 28.5 points over the last two contests, while Thompson has offered 26.5 points per game in Golden State's back-to-back wins.
Another area of improvement in the two wins has been the team's defensive effort, especially against Oklahoma City, which shot just 32.3 percent on Saturday night. Draymond Green noted that the Warriors have been "locked in" since losing to Phoenix:
"You see a different fire in the coaching staff, a different focus in their eyes. You see a different focus and fire in our players' eyes, and that's important. The training staff's been locked in, like everybody's been locked in since that loss. It comes at a good time for us, I think we got 13 or 14 games left, it's the right time to start playing well and try to roll on into the playoffs feeling good."
The Warriors (47-21) currently sit atop the Western Conference, a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets for the top overall seed. That would guarantee the Warriors home-court advantage until at least the NBA Finals, another advantage for the most talented team in basketball.
And if the Warriors reel off a fourth title in five seasons, they may look back to the loss at Phoenix as one of the key moments of the season. Certainly, it appears to have lit a fire under them this past week.