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Warriors dump Suns behind hot third quarter

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Phoenix Suns outplayed the Golden State Warriors for a majority of their 48-minute contest Sunday.

However, the Warriors put everything together for three minutes and 40 seconds in the third quarter, rendering the other 44-plus minutes meaningless.

Shooting guard Klay Thompson poured in 13 of his 22 points during a game-changing third quarter, helping the Warriors run away from the Suns en route to a 113-107 victory.

In a battle of teams jockeying for lower-end playoff positions in the Western Conference, the Warriors (40-24) pulled three games ahead of the Suns (36-26) while at the same time tying the season series 2-2.

"The guys had a sense of urgency," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "They understood how big this game was."

The Suns, riding the momentum of a 128-122 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in their most recent outing, used 56.1 percent shooting to build a 12-point lead en route to a 61-56 halftime advantage.

The Thompson-led Warriors caught fire in the third quarter, though. Golden State took its first lead since the fourth minute of the game at 74-73 with 7:05 remaining in the third before exploding to a commanding 94-78 margin by quarter's end.

Asked the critical factor in the turnaround, Thompson said, "Defensive stops. They shot like 55 percent in the first half. We had to do something about that."

The 38-point third quarter included a 16-0 flurry, which began with Phoenix clinging to a 75-74 lead with 6:25 left in the period.

Thompson and point guard Stephen Curry triggered the run with back-to-back 3-pointers. Thompson added two other hoops, as did power forward David Lee, in the 3:40 blitz, during which the Suns missed five shots and committed three turnovers.

"Getting stops. Getting into transition. Getting the fans into it," Curry said were the sources of the 16-point flurry. "That's the way we're supposed to play."

The Suns chipped away in the fourth quarter and got as close as 111-107 with 38.1 seconds remaining thanks to a Warriors drought in which the home team missed five consecutive shots and six straight free throws.

Golden State small forward Andre Iguodala finally connected on a pair of game-icing free throws with seven seconds left to account for the final margin of victory and push the Warriors 16 games over .500 for the first time this season.

"The guys fought hard in the fourth quarter, but when you're down that much and you make a run, everything has to go perfectly for you to get back in it," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "We missed out on a couple of things ... little things that when you're down, you can't have."

Lee led the Warriors with 26 points, hitting 11 of his 18 shots. Thompson's 22 points came on 9-for-15 shooting as Golden State connected on 52.9 percent of its shots in the game. Curry added 18 points.

"I felt fresh. I was getting good looks," Thompson said of his impressive shooting night, which also featured 4-for-6 success from beyond the 3-point arc. "I shoot with confidence. I was taking good shots. When I take good shots, that's when I'm at my best."

Curry (strained right quad) and Thompson (strained lower back) both played through injuries that made them less than sure things to suit up for the game. Curry wound up playing 30 minutes, Thompson 35.

Phoenix shooting guard Gerald Green, coming off a 41-point explosion Thursday against Oklahoma City, hit three of his five 3-pointers en route to 25 points. Suns point guard Goran Dragic connected on all three of his 3-point attempts in a 24-point outing. Power forward Channing Frye backed the guards with 16 points.

The Suns shot 47.6 percent (10-for-21) from beyond the arc, 48 percent from the floor overall.

"A big key for us usually is Markieff Morris inside, and he wasn't able to get anything inside on his guy," Hornacek said of his backup big man, who missed seven of his 10 shots and finished with 10 points. "They did a good job defensively that way."

Phoenix made half of its 12 3-point attempts as part of its hot shooting in the first half en route to the five-point lead.

The Suns not only outshot the Warriors (48.8 percent) in the half, but they also outran them (10-0 edge in fast-break points) and outrebounded them (22-14).

With the defeat, Phoenix fell into a tie with the Memphis Grizzlies for the final Western Conference playoff position.

NOTES: The home team won all four games in the Suns-Warriors season series. ... The Warriors' 40th win of the season was their 10th in which they trailed by 10 or more points during the game. ... No official announcement was made, but the Suns likely will have injured PG Eric Bledsoe back in the lineup when they return home to play the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Bledsoe, the Suns' second-leading scorer at 18.0 points per game, underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery on Jan. 10. ... Asked before the game if Bledsoe's return meant a demotion for SG Gerald Green, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, "For the first few games, we'll bring him (Bledsoe) off the bench. I would guess at some point he might be back in that starting lineup, because when him and (SG) Goran (Dragic) were in there, we were pretty good."
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