The budding Warriors-Suns rivalry is a gift for fans and a potential conference finals clash

  • NBA writer for ESPN.com since 2008
  • Former contributor and editor at NPR

PHOENIX — Come hell or high COVID, the NBA was determined to showcase its most appealing teams on Christmas Day. The league’s two leading squads obliged, treating in-house yuletide revelers and a national audience to a stellar display of NBA basketball. The Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns showed off the best version of their respective games in the Warriors’ 116-107 win.

The Warriors did what the Warriors do. Stephen Curry handling, passing, relocating and bombing from distance, while Draymond Green served as the air traffic controller from the top of the floor, delivering laser passes to weakside cutters and rim runners. The Suns executed their pick-and-roll attack starring Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, found shooters on kickouts off penetration and enjoyed a heavy dose of Devin Booker creating off the dribble.

The matchup featured the NBA’s two stingiest defenses, but this was a holiday feast for the offenses. Nobody ate more than Curry, who finished with 33 points despite not turning in his most efficient effort. Yet it was Otto Porter Jr. who provided dessert … and the cognac. Porter hit three massive jumpers in the Warriors’ final five possessions, scoring the game’s final seven points.

“Otto took over,” said Curry. Asked if he knew the journeyman was capable of such an outburst, Curry smiled.

“Don’t disrespect him like that,” he said. “That man can shoot the ball. I know he’s been through a lot of injuries and all that, but he’s been working his butt off since he got here this summer. And you could tell he does look confident — confident and composed — with what he was trying to do, getting to his spots and knocking them down.”

Though this is the first season the success of the Warriors and Suns has coincided, they’re quickly cultivating the Western Conference’s premier rivalry. The old standard-bearer and new power are both standout teams, but Golden State and Phoenix have decidedly different on-court identities.

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