The Golden State Warriors need to play better than they did in their most recent game if they want to remain in the Western Conference playoff race. Already in the postseason, the Phoenix Suns seem to feel they can improve, too.
The Warriors look to avoid a third straight loss against one of the West’s top teams Thursday when they host the Suns, who have clinched their third straight Pacific Division title.
Golden State (33-39) remains in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but didn’t play like a potential postseason team in Monday’s 126-89 loss to San Antonio.
Baron Davis and Monta Ellis each scored 17 points for the Warriors, but Jason Richardson went scoreless in 29 minutes and Al Harrington had one point in 18 minutes. Golden State shot 37.1 percent from the field overall and went 4-for-23 in the third quarter.
“We had nothing in the tank,” said Warriors coach Don Nelson, whose team lost 115-113 on the road Sunday to the Los Angeles Lakers. “We have been able to find some juice at home, but not tonight.”
The Spurs shot 59.7 percent, the highest by a Golden State opponent this season.
“We have to recognize that San Antonio is one of the best-executing teams in the league,” Golden State’s Stephen Jackson said. “They went through our defense like it was nothing.”
The Warriors, who have not been to the playoffs since the 1993-94 season, are 7-4 since losing six in a row from Feb. 24-March 4, but have struggled against the top five teams in the West, going 5-8.
After Phoenix (53-17), Golden State still has games with Houston, San Antonio, Utah and Dallas.
The Suns are second in the West and chasing first-place Dallas while trying to hold off the third-place Spurs. Phoenix beat Memphis 105-87 on Monday for its third win in four contests after losing two in a row.
“We did the job. We weren’t great but we won,” Suns guard Steve Nash said. “Any time you win by 20 points it’s hard to really complain. So I think we took care of our end of the deal.”
All-Star center Amare Stoudemire had 27 points and 12 rebounds, and is averaging 27.7 points and 14.7 boards in his last three games.
Led by 29 points on a 11-for-16 shooting from Raja Bell, the Suns shot 54.8 percent against the Grizzlies, but coach Mike D’Antoni wants his team to play with more energy with games coming up against Denver on Friday and Dallas on Sunday.
“Everybody seems down, the whole building seems flat, we’re flat,” D’Antoni said. “That’s what we are right now. If we are like that when Dallas comes into town we’re in trouble. But I think this is going to pass quickly and we’ll be fine.”
Phoenix, which averages an NBA-best 110.1 points, is averaging 115.3 in three wins over Golden State this season. The Suns shot 51.9 percent in the most recent meeting, a 128-105 victory on Jan. 7.
They are trying to sweep the season series from Golden State for the first time since 2001-02.