NBA: Big second half carries Golden State past Phoenix

Golden State Warriors

Monta Ellis suffered through one of his worst shooting nights of the season on Monday night, but the Golden State Warriors reserves made sure it didn’t matter.
While Ellis was shooting 5 for 20 in the 400th game of his NBA career, Nate Robinson, Brandon Rush and Klay Thompson triggered a fourth-quarter run that gave the Warriors a 102-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns and their first three-game win streak of the season.
The win also snapped Golden State’s seven-game losing streak to Phoenix that dated back to 2009. The Suns had won 11 of the previous 12 matchups.
Robinson, Rush and Thompson combined to score 14 straight Warriors points – including a pair of 3-pointers by Robinson – as Golden State extended an 80-78 lead to 94-84 with 5:43 left.
Phoenix scrapped within 94-91, but reserve forward Ekpe Udoh blocked a layup try by Markieff Morris with 2:30 left and Golden State weathered the comeback. Udoh scored a layup with 35.9 seconds left, ending a drought of more than 5 minutes and pushing the margin to five points.
David Lee led the Warriors with 28 points and 12 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. Martin Gortat scored 25 for Phoenix and Steve Nash had 14 assists.
Ellis scored 18, but got little going against the defense of 39-year-old Grant Hill on the heels of averaging 38 points in his three previous home games. Just six nights earlier, Ellis scored an NBA season-high 48 points against Oklahoma City.
He missed his first nine shots against the Suns and wasn’t even on the floor when the Warriors took charge midway through the fourth quarter.
-On Tim Hardaway bobblehead night at Oracle Arena, Warriors coach Mark Jackson recalled fond_and harrowing_memories of dueling the former Golden State point guard.
“I can remember playing one game against the Warriors in the Garden and in the first half I thought I did an outstanding job. I thought I took Tim out of rhythm,” said Jackson, who played most of his career with the New York Knicks.
“Coming out of halftime, he must have scored the first four baskets and I asked him, ‘What’s going on? You’re in attack mode now?’
“He said, ‘Nellie (coach Don Nelson) got on me at halftime, said I wasn’t aggressive.’ So I got upset with Nellie and held a grudge for quite a long time because Tim put on a clinic in the second half.”
Hardaway played 5{ seasons with Golden State, beginning in 1989-90. He averaged more than 20 points in four of those seasons, and made famous the cross-over dribble move, which his bobblehead is shown executing.
“Tim was an incredible basketball player. A flat-out assassin at the point guard position,” Jackson said before Golden State’s game Monday night against the Phoenix Suns. “When he was able to get hot, it was as tough guarding him as anybody I ever faced.”
Asked where Hardaway ranks among the greatest players in franchise history. Jackson said he did not grow up a Warriors fan and wasn’t sure he qualified to provide an exact ranking.
“I do know the great players that have marched through this city,” he said. “At the end of the day, Tim Hardaway is certainly a guy who is on the list as far as all-time great Warriors.”
-Warriors forward Dominic McGuire, who missed Sunday’s game against the Rockets with a left knee strain, was cleared to play against the Suns.
“Gotta play,” McGuire said. “I don’t like sitting out games when I don’t have to.”
McGuire did not see action in the first half against the Suns.
-Jackson said he’s becoming more comfortable using rookie guard Thompson at small forward along with Ellis and Curry in a three-man backcourt.
“We are a team that at times struggles closing out possessions, rebounding the basketball,” Jackson said. “I don’t think we lose a lot with our small guys like Klay, Brandon (Rush) . . . those are very good rebounders for their position. We’ve struggled with big lineups rebounding, therefore it doesn’t hurt.”
It’s the upside of the combination that entices Jackson.
“It’s a nightmare to defend when you spread the floor with shooters,” Jackson said. “It gives the guys more room to perform and makes the defense pay the price when they over-help.”
Thompson played 21 minutes Sunday night against the Rockets, hitting 4 of 6 shots from the 3-point arc and scoring 14 points. Thompson was shooting 59 percent from the 3-point line over his previous 12 games, including 12 of his past 16 attempts.
“I’m a great spot-up shooter and I’m happy to be out there when they’re out there,” Thompson said of being paired with Ellis and Curry.
“Those are two of the best scorers in the NBA. Everybody knows about their game and they kind of forget about me being on the court. I can just come in and contribute. That’s great.”
Jackson predicted opposing defenses won’t sleep on the first-year guard from Washington State for long.
“He’s not afraid of the moment. He will shoot with 3 seconds left in the game the same way he’ll shoot in the first 3 minutes of the game,” Jackson said. “He’s a starting 2 guard in this league and he’s on his way to being an elite one.”
-Golden State plays at home Wednesday against Portland, then has 24 of its final 40 games on the road. But Jackson, whose team was gunning for a season-best three-game winning streak Monday night, is undaunted.
“I totally understand that the schedule gets tough. It’s going to be a bunch of games coming very quickly,” he said, alluding to a stretch that begins Friday when the Warriors play eight of nine on the road.
“If we play the way we’re capable of playing, it doesn’t matter to me where we’re playing,” Jackson said. “We are an outstanding shooting basketball team. When we defend, rebound and take care of the basketball, we can continue to put together the kind of performances we’ve put together the last couple games.”
-Twenty-five games into his debut season as Warriors coach, Jackson said he likes being around his players. And he said that’s not a given in every situation.
“I’ve been on teams and followed teams where it wasn’t fun to be part of – in the locker room or in games,” he said.

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