NBA Game of the Week: Warriors look to reassert dominance against Suns

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The Golden State Warriors have a chance to reaffirm themselves as the heavyweights in the Western Conference on Wednesday when the defending NBA champions visit the Phoenix Suns.

Steve Kerr's team have endured a difficult start to their bid to win back-to-back titles, going 6-8 across their opening 14 games.

But they produced one of their best performances of the season on Monday, crushing the San Antonio Spurs 132-95.

A meeting with the Suns, seen as one of the primary challengers to Golden State in the West going into the season, my provide a more accurate indication of whether the Warriors have turned things around.

Phoenix lost a thriller with the Miami Heat on Monday, losing 113-112 on the road to drop to 8-5 but had little issue knocking off the Warriors in their first meeting this season on October 25, prevailing 134-105.

Veteran point guard Chris Paul has missed the last three games with a heel problem, and it remains to be seen if he will be healthy to play against the Warriors.

However, even without Paul the Suns possess one of the most talented rosters in the league, and with Devin Booker continuing his outstanding form from last season, they are well-equipped to trouble a Warriors team that has yet to win on the road this campaign.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker

Through 13 games, Booker has the highest offensive rating of his career (117.2) while his effective field goal percentage of 53.5 is his best since the 2019-20 season (54.4).

His 26.5 points per game rank 11th in the NBA, and his ability to maintain that efficiency will be key against a Warriors team whose problems have predominantly been on defense.

Golden State Warriors - Jordan Poole

Poole scored 36 points after being inserted into the starting lineup as Klay Thompson was rested against San Antonio, making a compelling argument for becoming a permanent fixture in the Warriors' starting five.

Kerr is not ready to make the that move, but, after the spark he gave Golden State last time out, Poole could play a more prominent role in a game that may yet be a preview of the Western Conference Finals if the Warriors can get back on track.

KEY BATTLE - Can Warriors find a winning bench combination?

The main issue with the Warriors does not concern their starting five, but their youthful bench.

Indeed, the Warriors' bench has an average plus-minus of minus 4.9, the worst in the NBA, their issues in that regard exemplified by Golden State sending former second overall pick James Wiseman to the G-League.

By contrast, the Suns' bench ranks sixth in the league with an average plus-minus of plus-1.5. If the Warriors cannot find a way to narrow that gap, it could be another difficult night for the champions.


HEAD TO HEAD

The Warriors and Suns split the season series in 2021-22, each winning once at home and once on the road. Recent history favours the Suns, though, with the Warriors having lost five of their last seven against Phoenix on the road, including the blowout defeat in Arizona last month.