Another win for the Warriors, “the best team in the world”
10:40 AM
Art Spander in Damian Jones, Suns, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — The other coach called them the best team in the world. Before the game.

Then the Warriors made Igor Kokoskov look very good by making themselves look like, well, if not the best team in the world then at least the best team in Oakland, which certainly is where the world of basketball has been located the past few years.

You know what the Warriors can do. So does Kokoskov. And Monday night, for the first time in the four games they’ve played in a season that has months and miles to go, they played that way.

Like the best team in the world, crushing Kokoskov’s Phoenix Suns.

The final score was only 123-103, but at one time the Dubs were up 88-58, by 30 points, with 5:23 to play — in the third quarter.

“That looked like our team,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “They had a purpose with each possession. They tried to get the guys better shots, and they got the threes together. It was a good night.”

A night the rest of the NBA knew was possible — and probable.

You’ve got these back-to-back champions, as the Warriors' slogan goes, and then you add this ever-improving 7-foot, 245-pounder, Damian Jones, who’s not only tall but wide — and well, thoughts of a three-peat, Pat Riley’s copyrighted term, seem quite realistic.

In effect, the Warriors, now 3-1 — if that matters, and it doesn’t — stopped fouling and started shooting.

“When you foul,” reminded Kerr, “you can’t get out in transition and run, so they go hand in hand. For the most part, we did a good job defending without fouling.”

It was Kokoskov, born a Serbian, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, in his first year as the Suns' head coach, who before tipoff said, “We are playing the best team in the world. We think about them, but we focus on ourselves. We know what we have to do to compete with these guys.”

But they couldn’t. Steph Curry had 29 points, after scoring 30 or more in the other three games. Kevin Durant had 22 and Klay Thompson, a bit off the other three games, scored 16, if hitting only 1-of-6 on threes. Jones, who has spent most of his previous two NBA seasons in the G-League (nee D-League), scored 13 in 20 minutes.

“This is why we have to have Damian,” said Kerr, who has been questioned as to why he starts Jones at center ahead of Jordan Bell. “We’ve gone against Steven Adams. Rudy Gobert, (Nikola) Jokic and tonight Deandre Jordan. Damian passed this week’s test with flying colors.”

Even though Jones’ game-tying attempt against Denver on Sunday night was blocked at the final buzzer.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm from the other guys trying to set up Damian,” said Kerr. “He’s fun to play with. He takes up that vertical space and makes it tough to guard him. He was better tonight, and he still can get better. He’s so physically imposing. He makes people shoot over him.”

Jones understands his role and also understands he’s in a lineup with four All-Stars, which can be humbling if not intimidating. But the teammates have embraced him, and DeMarcus Cousins, the other 7-footer, who continues to rehab his torn Achilles, has been coaching Jones.

“Little tidbits,” said Jones of the advice. “Scouting reports. Reminding me to attack the boards. I have to stay within myself. I have confidence in my abilities.”

Why wouldn’t he, teaming with Curry, Durant, Thompson and Draymond Green? Like the lyric about New York, if you can make it on the Warriors you can make it anywhere.

The words about Jones help balance all the speculation about what will happen to the Warriors. Whether indeed they can take a third straight championship and fourth in five years. Whether Durant, a free agent at the end of the season, will stay or depart.

Now the talk has been replaced by action.

Asked about playing on consecutive nights in different cities (Denver on Sunday and Oakland on Monday), Curry said, “In the NBA everybody has back-to-backs. We’ve been around the block enough to prepare ourselves. We didn’t like the way we played (Sunday) night. We were going to try not to lose two in a row.”

They succeeded like world-beaters.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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