Preview: Suns at Warriors, 8 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona
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OAKLAND, Calif. – Fifty-eight games into their season, the Suns will finally get their first look at the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
It’s the first of four meetings between Pacific Division foes over the Suns’ final 25 games.
Phoenix would appear to be catching the champs at a good time, as Golden State is just 3-3 over their past six games. But the Suns are not exactly heading into the matchup with a full head of steam: Their 123-113 home loss to Denver on Saturday gave them a five-game losing streak and their 10th loss in their last 11 games.
The Warriors (43-13) were also in action Saturday and eased past injury-plagued San Antonio 122-105 to give coach Steve Kerr his 250th career victory.
"We want to finish out this last stretch before the All-Star Game strong," said Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry, whose team will visit Portland on Wednesday before heading into the break. "Just trying to find a little bit of mojo, little bit of positive vibe."
The Warriors have experienced nothing but positive vibes in recent years against the Suns. Golden State has won the last 11 head-to-heads.
The Suns (18-39) welcomed point guard Elfrid Payton, acquired two days earlier in a trade with Orlando, for Saturday’s game against Denver, and his insertion into the starting lineup resulted in a faster-paced offense. The Suns posted season highs in field goal percentage (54.8) and points in the paint (66). The impressive output occurred without leading scorer Devin Booker, who is out with a hip injury.
Payton finished with 19 points and nine assists despite not having any practice time with his new teammates.
"It was different," coach Jay Triano said. "The pace of play was better, getting the ball up and down the court, getting into the lane when he needed to, and making passes. He made guys on the floor with him better. I think it will only improve as well as he understands who can do different things and where to be."
Payton's presence positively impacted several Suns, including young forward Dragan Bender, who scored a career-best 23 points, forward T.J. Warren, who poured in 31 points, and rookie Josh Jackson, who went for 20 points.
Warren’s scoring average is up to 19.7 points per game, well above his career-best of 16.1.
Golden State’s Curry is averaging 26.9 points per game, third in the league. He averaged 32.8 points per game in four contests against the Suns last season.