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PHOENIX — The exodus started with 9:50 on the game clock Monday night. With the Warriors well on their way to a 132-109 rout of Phoenix at Talking Stick Resort Arena, fans filed toward the exits in hopes of beating New Year’s Eve traffic.
It was a welcome sight for a Golden State team that has struggled to dominate this season. In bullying the nine-win Suns, the Warriors finally looked the part of prohibitive championship favorites. Their collective powers — the switch-heavy defense, the cast of All-Stars, the skilled role players, the rapid tempo, the parade of passes — had taken a toll.
“It was a solid effort tonight,” Stephen Curry said. “It wasn’t a great start, but pretty much the whole second quarter and beyond, we were disciplined defensively, played with a purpose on offense, creating great shots.”
In beating the Suns for the 17th straight time, including eight in a row in Phoenix, Golden State led for all but 1 minute, 17 seconds of the first quarter. After the Warriors closed the first half on a 24-7 run to enter intermission with a 17-point lead, the Suns did not seriously threaten.
Phoenix showed offensive flashes, but it had little answer for two of the best scorers in NBA history working in lockstep. Curry (34 points, nine rebounds) and Kevin Durant (25 points) needed only a combined 31 shots to propel the Warriors to their second victory in three nights.
With Curry and Durant providing a steady stream of highlights, Golden State’s complementary players spread the floor and enjoyed wide-open looks. The Warriors shot 54.8 percent from the field, 50 percent (14-for-28) from three-point range and 81.3 percent (26-for-32) from the foul line. Unlike much of the season, when it has forced passes or gotten sloppy, Golden State had 31 assists to only 15 turnovers.
“We’re a fast-paced team, but when we’re playing against a young team that’s even faster, we want to beat them with our smarts,” Durant said. “I thought we slowed it down, and we beat them with our minds instead of just outrunning them.”
A thin frontcourt, perhaps the Warriors’ biggest concern this season, got a memorable performance from Jordan Bell. In 16 minutes, Bell posted a season-high 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting, six rebounds, two assists and three blocks.
With DeMarcus Cousins likely out for at least another month with a torn left Achilles tendon, Golden State hopes Bell can build off Monday’s effort. Its only other center, not counting cameos from Jonas Jerebko and Draymond Green, is Kevon Looney.
“I think (head coach) Steve (Kerr) saw my confidence was up, and decided to play me a little more today,” Bell said.
All of Monday’s positives came with an obvious caveat: Deep into a rebuild, the Suns are easily the Western Conference’s worst team. But in an underwhelming season, the Warriors have been desperate for something, anything, to gain a measure of consistency.
Since a blowout loss on Christmas to the Lakers and overtime defeat to Portland, Golden State has resembled the team many anticipated. The Warriors followed up Saturday’s 10-point win over the Trail Blazers with their most lopsided victory in almost four weeks.
Accustomed to playing the part of schoolyard tormenter, Golden State has been surprisingly pedestrian this season. It entered Monday seventh in the NBA with an average margin of plus-4.1.
To put that in context, the Warriors outscored opponents by a double-digit average in each of Kerr’s first three seasons. Even last season, when Golden State was dogged by complacency and inattention, it had a point margin of plus-6.
This team still has plenty of flaws: no prototypical center, inconsistent effort, no playmaker off the bench. But as the season nears its midpoint, the Warriors are beginning to do what they were supposed to do. And that’s why Kerr smiled on the sideline as Phoenix fans filed toward the exits early in the fourth quarter Monday.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/In-Phoenix-Warriors-get-suddenly-rare-blowout-13501283.php.