SAN FRANCISCO — Warriors coach Steve Kerr spent a good chunk of his postgame press conference reiterating his belief that the Suns are the best team in the West.
It’s funny, as Monty Williams, the coach at Phoenix said almost exactly the same thing regarding Golden State.
With the two top teams in the NBA splitting a pair of games this week, the debate isn’t likely to be settled soon.
Stephen Curry bounced back from one of the worst shooting nights of his career and scored 23 points, and the Warriors convincingly ended the Suns’ 18-game winning streak with a 118-96 victory on Friday night.
“We know that we’re trying to catch them, not vice-versa,” Kerr said of the defending Western Conference champs. “We haven’t been in the playoffs for two years. We’re trying to catch them and we know they’re the best team in the West until somebody knocks them off.”
That’s something no team had been able to do for more than five weeks as Phoenix erased a 1-3 start and rose to the top of the West standings.
Golden State was among the failed attempts, falling 104-96 on Tuesday.
Kerr’s team flipped the script in the rematch.
The Warriors (19-3), which held down the Suns (19-4), had a season-low in scoring. They also slipped by Phoenix to claim the NBA’s most successful record.
“They did a good job of speeding us up,” Williams said. “We did that to them the other day. That’s part of the chess match. When we got to the paint and found guys, it was phenomenal in the second quarter but that’s the only quarter we did it consistently.”
After a JaVale McGee dunk in the fourth quarter, the Suns had gotten within 83-74. But they never came closer. Gary Payton II had consecutive possessions and added a breakaway, two-handed dunk. Then, he followed that with a quick jumper, to give Golden State a 20 advantage.
Curry made 8 of 20, three days after his 4-21 performance in Phoenix. He missed 11 of 14 attempts at 3-point shooting. Curry also shot six 3s and five rebounds, as well as five assists.
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 to help Golden State extend its winning streak at home to 11. Draymond green had nine points, nine assists, and nine rebounds. He also added six steals to his total of three blocks.
“They got us at their home so we had to come here and protect our house,” Wiggins said. “They made it hard for us. Facing them is going to be a battle all the time.”
Deandre Ayton scored 23 points for Phoenix and grabbed six rebounds. Chris Paul had 12 points and eight assists.
Williams tried to minimize talk of the streak while encouraging the players to enjoy the ride. He won’t have to worry about that anymore following Phoenix’s first loss since Oct. 27.
The West’s best team has now been discussed, and their next meeting is set for Christmas in Phoenix.
“Not quite sure who it is but it’s good to be in that category,” Williams said.
The Suns lost the back half of their two-game series, this time without Devin Booker being injured. They spent the remainder of the evening trying to get up.
Curry conquered the impossible.
The two-time MVP hit his first two 3s, completed a three-point play amid chants of “MVP! MVP!” and made another shot beyond the arc to put the Warriors up 49-37.
“We were, especially in the second half, much more patient,” Kerr said. “Once we settled down after that sort of disastrous final four minutes of the second quarter, we were really poised, competed and earned a really good win.”
Suns led by 11 after the quarter. Warriors took control of the game with an 80 run in the final quarter to draw within 51-48.
“The winning streak was a lot of fun,” Paul said. “Been a long time since we felt a loss but hell, let’s start a new one.”