The Golden State Warriors will sidestep an opponent’s superstar for the third consecutive game when they host the Kevin Durant-less Phoenix Suns on Monday night.
The Warriors have won seven in a row at home, including a 125-116 overtime thriller over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, when the visitors were without star Giannis Antetokounmpo because of a sore right hand.
Stephen Curry played the role of the difference-maker in the win. He exploded for 11 points in the final 1:51 of regulation to force extra time, then nine more in the five-minute overtime to help the Warriors overtake the Eastern Conference’s top team.
The Warriors had lost their previous game, 131-110 at Memphis on Thursday, despite the Grizzlies missing Ja Morant, who was sidelined while the NBA investigates a gun incident.
Durant sprained his left ankle during warmups for what was supposed to be his Suns home opener last Wednesday after having been acquired from the Brooklyn Nets at the February trade deadline.
He missed his first six Suns games due to a pre-existing knee injury, then helped Phoenix win three straight on the road earlier this month, averaging 26.7 points in those games.
A two-time champion in three years with Golden State, Durant also missed an earlier scheduled visit to San Francisco with the Nets in January because of the knee issue.
Despite seeing Durant limp off the court before the game, the Suns won a fourth straight over Oklahoma City before falling 128-119 to the visiting Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.
They now will face the Warriors and Bucks in consecutive games, with Milwaukee visiting Phoenix on Tuesday.
Suns coach Monty Williams walked away from the high-scoring loss to the Kings sounding much like Golden State counterpart Steve Kerr has following his veteran team’s run of poor efforts on the road of late.
“We had so many ‘my bads’ and blown coverages tonight,” Williams said. “I didn’t think we played with the sharpness and gameplan discipline that it takes to play against a team that’s hungry.”
Both teams should be hungry for a win Monday. The Suns enter the game in the fourth spot in the West — which carries with it a home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs — but the Warriors are just 2 1/2 games behind.
Phoenix already has clinched the season series, crushing the Warriors by 29 and 11 points in earlier home games, and 125-113 in its previous trip to San Francisco.
But that was in the pre-Durant era, when defensive stopper Mikal Bridges was around to harass Curry, who has been held to 24 or fewer points in eight of his last 11 meetings with Phoenix.
Bridges won’t be around to make things tough on Curry this time around, as he was part of the package required to pry Durant from the Nets.
Curry, who turns 35 on Tuesday, might need the break. He went a season-high-tying 43 minutes in the overtime win, then was asked by ESPN in a postgame interview, “You look tired. Are you OK?”
“Oh, I’m great,” he responded. “I’m just getting old.”
Curry finished with 36 points, helping Golden State stop a three-game losing skid.
–Field Level Media