PHOENIX — Cameron Payne scored 17 points, Devin Booker added 16 and the Phoenix Suns easily handled the short-handed Golden State Warriors 120-98 on Thursday night. The Suns enter the All-Star break as one of the league's hottest teams. They've won 16 of 19 dating to Jan. 28 and improved to 24-11 this season. The Warriors were missing a big chunk of their usual production: Stephen Curry (rest), Draymond Green (ankle) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (wrist) were all out of the lineup. Because of that, they predictably struggled. Jordan Poole led all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. But he didn't get much help: The Warriors shot just 44% and were outrebounded 52-39. Seven Suns players scored in double figures and coach Monty Williams was able to rest the starters in the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder had 14 points and made 4 of 7 3-pointers. Deandre Ayton had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Payne added 10 assists. The Suns led by 20 points on the way to a 62-51 halftime lead and never trailed after the opening minutes. BRUISED BOOKER Booker banged knees with Golden State’s Kent Bazemore during the first quarter, falling to the floor with a grimace on his face. He stayed in the game a few more minutes before checking out and walking back to the locker room. The two-time All-Star guard returned but didn’t have his usual burst. He finished just 6-of-20 shooting from the field. MANNION GETS START Warriors rookie guard Nico Mannion got the first start of his career against the Suns. The 6-foot-2 Mannion has plenty of Arizona ties. He played one season in college for the Arizona Wildcats before declaring for the NBA draft and was a star during his high school days in Phoenix. He finished with a career-high nine points and six assists in 31 minutes. TIP-INS Warriors: Warriors coach Steve Kerr said pregame that Curry's rest against the Suns had been planned for about a week. It was just the second game Curry has missed this season. He's averaging 29.7 points per game. Suns: Second-year forward Cameron Johnson didn't play against the Warriors because he was placed in the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocol. ... Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was sitting courtside wearing an Oakland A's hat. The A's drafted Murray with the 9th overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft but allowed him to continue his college football career. Murray entered the NFL draft after winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy. UP NEXT Warriors: Open the second half of the season at the Los Angeles Clippers next Thursday. Suns: Open the second half at Portland next Thursday. ___ Follow David Brandt at www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports David Brandt, The Associated Press
There is a moment after every switch is called but before it’s executed that the pick-setter is configured between two defenders but guarded by neither. That’s when they can literally slip underneath the defense and cut to a juicy opening.
The Phoenix Suns will be seeking to cement the title as the biggest surprise of the NBA's first half when they host the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. One year after going into the All-Star break with a 22-33 record, the 12th-best in the Western Conference, the Suns have a chance to reside atop the Pacific Division with another win to tack onto their 23-11 mark this season. The Suns enter the final day of the first half with the second-best record in the NBA, trailing only Utah (27-9).