PHOENIX — With the Warriors in town and the Suns nursing a two-game losing streak, coach Jeff Hornacek offered some perspective.
"It’s an interesting position to be in," he said. "Who would have thought that you lose two games in a row this year and everybody is down and depressed?
"Coming off that road trip and beating Indiana, everybody else thinks you’re going to win every game."
Yeah, unexpectedly skyrocketing expectations can be annoying.
Instead of filling the prescribed role of Western Conference doormat, the Suns — who scored a 122-109 victory over the Warriors on Saturday night at US Airways Center — have played their way into potential action during very late April.
With that established, losing to the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets earlier this week meant a showdown with Golden State arrived with bonus gusto.
We’ll begin with a point guard war co-starring All-Star starter Steph Curry of the Warriors and snub Goran Dragic, who seemed to begin his All-Star skills-competition competition with a career-high 34 points on a measly 13 shots.
While Dragic, who also had 10 assists, was making 6 of 7 3-pointers, the witnesses included infant son Mateo, who was watching his old man play in person for the first time.
"I was a little bit hyped to show what his daddy can do," Dragic admitted afterward.
Daddy Dragon’s late doing was a 5-for-5 shooting effort (3 of 3 from beyond the arc) in a victory-sealing, 13-point fourth quarter. Two of those 3s happened with the shot clock on life support and the game in the balance.
"They were dagger shots," said Curry, who made on three of his 10 3-point attempts. "A big-time player made big-time shots, so we’ll tip our cap to him."
Dragic returned the favor.
"They have great players," he said, "especially Steph Curry, who are so tough to guard. In the end, I think we played smart on offense and defense and here is the result."
Curry, by the way, dropped 28 and eight (assists) on Phoenix, but thanks to some sticky, fourth-quarter defensive work by Leandro Barbosa, his bucket-getting ended after three quarters. Curry’s 10-of-20 shooting effort included 0 for 3 in the fourth.
While trading the conference’s seventh seed for the sixth in this date with Golden State, the other components during the Suns’ 3oth victory in 50 games included the following:
The Warriors were without center Andrew Bogut (shoulder) and power forward David Lee (shoulder/hip). Right, that’s not exactly a recipe for success.
The Suns, one of the league’s worst defensive-rebounding teams, were plus-11 overall on the boards and attacked the rim at will.
P.J. Tucker produced 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds while defending multiple Golden State hotshots.
Tucker, who added four steals, said that by the fourth quarter the Warriors were committed to investigating any matchup not featuring him.
"They were saying, ‘He’s on me,’ and going at someone else," Tucker said.
Well, the Warriors (now 30-21) are pretty smart.
As is Hornacek. Going small when needed, he had Tucker spend a few minutes as the Suns’ ranking four-man.
With an O’Neal-on-Tucker matchup, Tucker was able to shake free for both of his 3-pointers. A late-closing O’Neal was called for a foul on one and Tucker converted the four-point play.
"It was kind of a goofy game," Hornacek said, "because they had guys injured, so they went small on us and Channing (Frye) was able to go into the post."
A particularly small Golden State interlude occurred in the third quarter and featured Green as the stunt-double center.
With Frye and center Miles Plumlee (they’re both listed at 6-11) still on the floor, the Suns promptly were burned for eight unanswered Warriors points, mostly via dribble penetration with slow defensive rotation.
Hornacek sat Plumlee and put Frye on the post on offense. Over the next three minutes, the veteran power forward provided three post-up baskets and a pass out of a Golden State double-team that became a successful 3-pointer from Marcus Morris.
"Tonight we took advantage of that," Frye said of the injury-inspired mismatches, "and tried to do the best we can and it worked out."