OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With his team stuck in a season-high, six-game losing streak, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson called facing the Phoenix Suns “the biggest game of the season for us” just before tipoff against the Western Conference’s worst team.
Apparently his players got the message.
Klay Thompson had 28 points and eight rebounds, David Lee finished with 19 points and 11 boards and the Warriors held on to beat the Suns 108-98 on Wednesday night to end their longest slide of the season.
“This is a game we should have won and we did win,” Jackson said. “And I like the fashion in which we did it.”
Jarrett Jack added 21 points off the bench and Stephen Curry scored 20, with both making some key shots late to secure Golden State’s first victory in almost three weeks. The Warriors hadn’t won since routing Phoenix 113-93 on Feb. 2, and some offered an even simpler solution to the problem.
“Maybe we need to play them more often,” Jack joked.
Coming off a win at Portland a night earlier, Phoenix regressed again.
Goran Dragic had 20 points and 10 assists and Jermaine O’Neal added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who have lost five straight to Golden State, including all three meetings this season. Phoenix went down by 10 points in the first quarter and played from behind the rest of the way.
“We’re trying to create a mentality here. We’re trying to learn how to be a good team,” O’Neal said. “To fight and keep coming back, that’s what you want. The next step is how do you keep that fight and get over the hump? That’s the thing we’re learning as a group now.”
After losing at Utah on Tuesday night in the first game since the All-Star break, Jackson put the pressure on his team to perform. He said the game would reveal a lot about his team’s character and resolve.
Just as the coach had hoped, the heart and hustle that defined Golden State’s surprising run this season slowly started to return — along with its shooting stroke. Facing the Suns certainly helped, too.
The Warriors began 14 for 19 from the floor behind their streaky second-year shooting guard. On a night the team gave away promotional bobblehead dolls of him, Thompson made his first six shots, including a pair of 3-pointers that gave Golden State a 29-19 lead late in the first quarter.
Jackson even joked he already had two dolls signed by Thompson for the coach’s younger sons.
In another moment worth savoring for the Warriors, Andrew Bogut took his latest step forward. The 7-foot center had 11 rebounds, seven points and three blocks in a season-high 29 minutes while playing in back-to-back games for the first time since his comeback from left ankle surgery.
“It’s been tough, I’m not going to lie,” Bogut said of the losing streak. “You’re going to have your highs and your lows. The goal is to minimize your lows quickly.”
The defensive highlight for Phoenix came when O’Neal blocked Harrison Barnes’ dunk attempt at the rim, then waived his right index finger at the rookie. The Suns still struggled to slow down Thompson and the rest of the Warriors, who went ahead 55-44 late in the second quarter.
Jared Dudley’s dunk and 3-pointer highlighted a brief burst for Phoenix midway through the third quarter. The Suns sliced Golden State’s lead to 68-67, quieting the anxious home crowd, but just briefly.
“When you’re playing uphill, you almost have to play perfect to come out with a win on the road against a good team,” Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said. “And we were far from perfect. We fought at times, and then there were times when we resorted back to not doing the things that we want to do.”
Thompson capped another spurt by tossing a pass ahead to Carl Landry, whose reverse layup was swatted after it hit the glass by Wesley Johnson for a goaltending call just before the buzzer, lifting Golden State back in front 85-76.
Every time the Suns started to get close late, Golden State regrouped in a hurry.
After scoring the first three points of the fourth quarter, the Warriors started a 9-2 run that Jack finished off with a 3-pointer for a 94-84 lead. He waived his hands and skipped back down court in celebration, talking to fans all along the way.
O’Neal’s put-back brought Phoenix within four late, but that last-ditch threat ended quickly. Curry made a bank shot and swished a 3-pointer, Lee followed with a turnaround jumper and Jack hit another from beyond the arc to put the Warriors ahead 104-92 with 1:45 remaining.
“That’s too long to go in between wins,” Curry said. “Hopefully, that’s the last little slide we go on this year.”
NOTES: Earlier Wednesday, the Suns sent a future second-round draft pick to Houston in exchange for F Marcus Morris, who will join his twin older brother, Markieff, down in the desert, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade hadn’t been finalized. … A moment of silence was held before the game for Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died Monday at 80 years old. … Thompson’s career high is 32 points at Cleveland on Jan. 29.