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Warriors beat Suns, take big step toward securing playoff spot

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- On the doorstep of their second trip to the NBA playoffs in 20 years, the Golden State Warriors are winning games in all kinds of ways these days.

Friday night in Phoenix, the Suns shot 61 percent from the field, scored 64 points in the first half, led by as many as 18 points -- and still couldn't finish the deal as the Warriors used a 32-14 third quarter to regain the lead before holding on for a 111-07 win.

Klay Thompson had 15 of his 25 points in the third quarter, while David Lee (22, points, 14 rebounds) and Stephen Curry (18 points, a career-high tying 15 assists) added double doubles for the Warriors -- who maintained their slim lead over Houston for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

"When you give up 64 points in the first half you aren't going to win many games, especially on the road," Curry said. "We are a lot more mature team. Tonight, we showed the resiliency that we have built over the course of the season.

A win over Utah at home on Sunday would clinch Golden State's first playoff berth since 2006-07 and only the second since 1993-94 -- when Charles Barkley and the Suns took the Warriors out in the first round.

Golden State also completed a season sweep of Phoenix for the first time since the 1976-77 season -- the year after the Suns upset Rick Barry and the Warriors in the 1976 Western Conference Finals to go to their first NBA Finals.

"This isn't a surprise to those guys in the locker room," said coach Mark Jackson, who led the Warriors to 23-43 record last year. "They put the time in, they worked their tails off and this was a goal. It's not a shock. People have counted out this group; people continue to count out this group. But we're going to stick together and chip away at each and every one of our goals.

Goran Dragic had a game-high 32 points on 11-for-13 shooting and Michael Beasley added 25 points on 12-for-17 shooting for the Suns, who shot over 60 percent in a game (44-for-72) for the first time in nearly a year (April 16, 2012, against Portland was the last time) and still couldn't win.

They were within striking distance of the NBA record for the best shooting percentage by a losing team -- the Washington Wizards shot 63.4 percent in a 113-109 loss to Chicago on April 11, 2001 -- but committed 22 turnovers and missed several shots in the final minutes to cost themselves both infamy and the game.

"For us to shoot 61 percent and still lose is mind-boggling," Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said. "But we had turnovers in crucial situations. That is a playoff team. You can't expect a high-powered team like that not to respond."

Phoenix lost for the eighth straight time -- their worst losing streak in a season full of them -- and for the 12th time in the last 13 games. The good only news for the Suns is the loss allowed them to slip behind Cleveland -- who beat Boston on Friday -- for the third-worst record in the NBA, trailing only Orlando and Charlotte.

The Suns looked nothing like losers in the first half. Phoenix hit 14 of 22 shots in the first quarter -- Dragic and Beasley were a combined 8-for-9 -- in a season-best 37-point first quarter. Beasley capped the quarter with a 46-foot bank heave at the buzzer to give his team a 37-23 lead.

Phoenix pushed its lead to 17 on a Jared Dudley 3-pointer with 9:39 left in the half. But the Warriors immediately answered with a 14-2 run and drew within five at 46-41 when Curry stole the ball from Dragic, stumbled toward the 3-point line and still calmly sank a 25-footer with 6:10 to go.

The Suns led by nine at the half, but it evaporated when the Warriors outscored Phoenix 28-4 over the final 9:22 of the third quarter, turning a 70-59 deficit into an 87-76 lead. Phoenix kept making shots and kept coming back in the fourth, with a Beasley 20-footer capping an 11-4 run and slicing the Golden State lead to 104-102 with 1:29 left.

But Beasley turned the ball over when Phoenix had a chance to tie and Jarrett Jack nailed a 3-pointer with 48.9 seconds left to give the Warriors a five-point lead.

NOTES: The Warriors haven't been in Phoenix since opening night, and it was a Halloween to remember and forget for Curry. He signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension in the afternoon and proceeded to go 2-for-14 from the floor and scored a season-low five points. ... Lee's double-double came on the heels of a 23-point, 16-rebound effort against New Orleans on Wednesday. "He was all over the floor and he got back to dominating on the boards. He's played a lot of minutes and tracked a lot of miles this year. It's good to see him get it back as we close this thing up," Jackson said. Hunter said Beasley's 13 points and strong defensive effort in Wednesday's 126-101 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers was "probably his best game of the season." He followed it up with his second-highest scoring game as a Sun on Friday. "I'm doing what I know how to do," Beasley said. "At times it messes me up when I'm trying to think about a thousand things at once. (I) just stopped listening to people and just started trusting my instincts again."
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