Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together and welcome back Mo Buckets! After saving the Warriors multiple times last season with his scoring at the center position behind Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights has been mostly inconsistent this year toggling between the backup four and the backup backup five spot. But Speights chose a good night to have a game reminiscent of last year. With his team down 9 points to start the fourth quarter, Speights hit back-to-back jumpers to cut the lead to 5 and grabbed a rebound in traffic that led to a Stephen Curry 3-pointer. All of a sudden a 9-point deficit was whittled down to only two, and the Oracle crowd was roaring for more. By the time Speights was finally subbed out, the Dubs had regained the lead, and the man known affectionately in the Bay as “Mo Buckets” had dropped a cool 25 points (and grabbed 9 rebounds) to bring his team back from the brink of a disastrous upset loss to the lottery-bound Suns. With the come-from-behind victory, Golden State is now 59-6 on the season.
1) You just never know who it will be on this Warriors team that will come up big and save the day. With Andre Iguodala ruled out for at least the next two weeks and Curry hampered by foul trouble in the third quarter, my money certainly wouldn’t have been on Speights to come to the rescue. Last year, sure, Mo repeatedly bailed out the Warriors in scoring droughts, but this year has been a different animal with Speights struggling to find consistent minutes while Festus Ezeli gobbled up the lion’s share of the backup big man minutes. But credit Speights for staying ready. He not only scored 25 points on 14 shots, but he put on his defensive pants and battled Alex Len and Tyson Chandler commendably in the paint. Speights had 1 block, 2 steals (one perfectly timed theft coming down the stretch of the fourth on a lob attempt to Chandler) and finished plus-14 on the night. And all this in only 18 minutes of action.
2) Curry and his 35 points weren’t bad either. After picking up a fourth foul in the third quarter, the MVP was sent to the bench and had to watch his team go from up two points to down nine to start the fourth. But Curry made the most of the final stanza by dropping 15 points, none bigger than the three he hit at the 5:39 mark that came right after Brandon Knight had just sank a three of his own. That shot was Steph letting Knight know that “Nuh uh, this is my house!”
3) These last three years watching Steph go on extended scoring binges have almost numbed me. Unless he hits 20 points or more in a quarter, I’m hardly even surprised anymore. But then I watch Brandon Knight (30 points), someone fresh off a 21-game injury hiatus, drop 17 points in the third and I remember, “Oh yeah, it’s pretty frickin’ insane for a human being to score that many points in an NBA quarter.”
4) Earl Watson going with an iso Tyson Chandler post-up instead of putting the rock in the hands of a scorching-hot Knight down the stretch of a four-point game was the Suns announcing, “No, guys, really. We’re good with moral victories in Phoenix. We’re only trying to win ping pong balls.”
5) Andre’s absence was definitely felt. Knight got hot in the third mostly with Leandro Barbosa guarding him. You have to imagine Iggy would’ve had a shot there. Maybe he wouldn’t have put the clamps on Knight with dude being so hot, but he could’ve at least denied a pass or two, or maybe run Knight off the 3-point line and had him settle for a long two. Get well soon, Andre!
6) I love Andrew Bogut and everything he does on the court.
7) Eric Bledsoe and Knight sitting out for an extended period of time might end up being a blessing in disguise for the Suns because Devin Booker (18 points) got to play point guard during most of that run. The rookie is averaging almost 25 points in March, but he also has games with 9 and 10 assists (11 last night). He’s obviously a great shooter but Booker’s also great at leveraging that shooting to get drives to the lane and has a good change-of-speed game. On soft doubles off the pick-and-roll, Booker smartly keeps his dribble low with his butt out while weaving through two defenders and creates just enough space to whip passes into the post. So crafty, so smart. So veteran-like. This guy is only 19.
8) Why aren’t the Suns better at basketball. Their core trio of Knight, Booker and Len (26 points, 13 boards) are all in the same age curve and they have the veteran Chandler coming off the bench and Teletovic stretching the floor. When Bledsoe comes back next season that’s another piece to bolster the team or an asset at the trade deadline for another wing. This team should be better than 17-49.
9) It’s early, but Anderson Varejao keeps finding himself wide open for jumpers and he keeps taking them. You know what they say about open jump shooters sometimes…
10) Draymond Green has 17+ points in the last three contests. Maybe he’s worked himself out of that little robotic scoring funk.