Two streaking teams collide in a historic early-season matchup when the Phoenix Suns host the Golden State Warriors in a nationally televised contest Tuesday night.
The timely scheduling of the teams with the two best records in the NBA — the Warriors (18-2) lead the Suns (17-3) atop both the Pacific and Western standings — brings together opponents from the same division with winning percentages of .850 or higher at least 20 games into the season for the first time in NBA history.
The Suns, who haven’t lost since Oct. 27 at home against Sacramento, will be shooting for a franchise-record-tying 17th straight win — and a tie atop the West — when they meet a Warriors team that has used a seven-game winning streak to build upon its league-best start.
“Obviously, everybody knows the ultimate goal is to win a championship,” Phoenix point guard Chris Paul said on the eve of the showdown. “But if you don’t enjoy the small victories throughout the regular season, then what the hell are you doing?”
The Suns took care of business on a just completed, four-game trip to San Antonio, Cleveland, New York and Brooklyn, using better-than-50-percent shooting to dispense of the Spurs, Cavaliers and Knicks before surviving a 39-point explosion from the Nets’ Kevin Durant on Saturday.
The Suns are firing on all cylinders, with the only significant injury sidelining backup big man Frank Kaminsky, who is out indefinitely with a stress reaction in his right knee.
His absence has, coincidentally, thrust veteran JaVale McGee into the spotlight on the eve of a matchup against the team with which he won championships in 2017 and 2018.
McGee, who never recorded a double-double in 142 regular-season and 29 playoff games for Golden State, has put up two in his last three games, including 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Nets.
Facing a team on a record-seeking run is nothing new to the Warriors. This will be the sixth time in their franchise history that they’ve met an opponent on a winning streak of 16 or more games.
They played dream-ender once before, that coming on March 12, 2007, when Baron Davis led a 117-100 home win over the Dallas Mavericks, who took the floor that night riding a 17-game winning streak.
The Warriors are no strangers to winning streaks themselves. Even with coach Steve Kerr sidelined with a bad back, they opened the 2016 season with 24 straight wins before losing 108-95 at Milwaukee.
The loss came after the Warriors had gone 16-0 in the month of November. The Suns would match that feat by beating Golden State.
The clubs meet in a rematch Friday in San Francisco.
Like fellow veteran Paul, the Warriors’ Draymond Green loves the hoopla attached to a game that probably won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
“As an athlete, a part of what you do is entertain,” he said. “And when you see (large media gatherings), it gives you that juice. I think it’s great. Nobody’s following a (bad) team.”
The Warriors ran their winning streak to seven with a 105-90 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon. Stephen Curry responded to a technical foul with 13 of his game-high 33 points and three of his seven 3-pointers in a fourth-quarter runaway.
The meeting will be the first of the season for the Warriors and Suns. They also are paired in one of the NBA’s marquee matchups on Christmas afternoon.
–Field Level Media