Slumping Warriors look to turn things around vs. Suns
PHOENIX — Golden State’s recent slump extended into Saturday, and it could keep the Warriors from homecourt advantage if they make the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season.
The Warriors were outscored by 10 points in the fourth quarter of a 126-120 home loss to playoff-hungry New Orleans on Saturday, and the defeat dropped them one-half game behind Toronto (57-22) for the second-best record in the league behind Houston.
Golden State is 57-23 it prepares for its final two games of the season, at Phoenix on Sunday and at Utah on Tuesday. The Warriors have had homecourt advantage the previous three Finals while winning two titles.
“You can tell the teams around the league that have to win,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “They’re getting after it. They’re playing for their season. Our season begins next week. We’re trying to play well and find a little rhythm going into the playoffs. We have to find ways we can play.”
The Warriors are 3-5 in their last eight and 6-9 in their last 15 since capping a seven-game winning streak with a 110-107 victory over San Antonio on March 8, with only two victories against teams with a winning record.
They await the return of Stephen Curry, who has played only one of the last 15 games. He scored 29 points in 25 minutes of a 106-94 victory over Atlanta on March 23 before being removed after suffering a grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Curry was expected to miss at least three weeks, and Kerr said the Warriors do not expect Curry to play in the first round of the playoffs. Kevin Durant missed five weeks with an MCL sprain last season. Curry did some light stretching before the New Orleans game and has ridden a stationary bike. He is to be reevaluated next week.
“Coming along pretty well,” two-time MVP Curry told reporters. “Hopefully when the playoffs come around, I’ll be in a good condition to come back on the court as soon as possible.”
Durant had 41 points and 10 rebounds against New Orleans, and is averaging 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists in six games since returning from an fractured rib that cost him six games. He previously missed time with a calf strain.
Phoenix (20-60) has lost 26 of their last 28 games and still controls its own destiny for the best chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. The Suns won the season series against Memphis three games to one, so the Grizzles (21-58) would lose (win) the tiebreaker at the bottom of the standings if the teams finished tied.
The team with the worst record has a 25 percent of getting the No. 1 pick in the May lottery and the team with the second-worst record has a 19.9 percent chance. Memphis plays host to Detroit on Sunday before closing the season with road games against Minnesota and Oklahoma City, two of the playoff contenders in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
Suns rookie forward Josh Jackson, meanwhile, continues to fill up the box score in the extended absences of starters Devin Booker (hand), TJ Warren (hip) and Elfrid Payton (knee). Booker has missed the last 10 games and Warren has missed the last nine, and neither is expected to play the rest of the season.
Jackson had 22 points, 11 rebounds and two steals in a 122-103 loss to New Orleans on Friday, his eighth straight game with at least 15 points and multiple steals. Michael Jordan (10, 1984) and Allen Iverson (nine, 1997) are the only other rookies with streaks of at least eight games in those categories, according to BasketballReference.com.
Jackson had scored at least 15 points in 12 straight games, joining Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid as the only rookies to have such a streak in the last three seasons.
“Obviously I’ve come a long way, I think, and I just owe it all to being a student of the game and wanting to become better,” Jackson said.
Six-10 forward Marquese Chriss, who started at center when the Suns opted for a smaller lineup against New Orleans, had a season-high 23 points. He had 22 in the last meeting against the Warriors, a 117-107 loss in the Bay Area on April 1.