SAN FRANCISCO — Warriors coach Steve Kerr spent a good chunk of his postgame press conference reiterating his belief that the Suns are the best team in the West.
Funny, because Phoenix coach Monty Williams said pretty much the same thing about Golden State.
With the two top teams in the NBA splitting a pair of games this week, the debate isn’t likely to be settled soon.
Stephen Curry bounced back from one of the worst shooting nights of his career and scored 23 points, and the Warriors convincingly ended the Suns’ 18-game winning streak with a 118-96 victory on Friday night.
“We know that we’re trying to catch them, not vice-versa,” Kerr said of the defending Western Conference champs. “We haven’t been in the playoffs for two years. We’re trying to catch them and we know they’re the best team in the West until somebody knocks them off.”
That’s something no team had been able to do for more than five weeks as Phoenix erased a 1-3 start and rose to the top of the West standings.
Golden State was among those who tried and failed, losing 104-96 on Tuesday.
Kerr’s team flipped the script in the rematch.
The Warriors (19-3) limited the Suns (19-4) to a season low for scoring and slipped past Phoenix for the best record in the NBA.
“They did a good job of speeding us up,” Williams said. “We did that to them the other day. That’s part of the chess match. When we got to the paint and found guys, it was phenomenal in the second quarter but that’s the only quarter we did it consistently.”
The Suns were within 83-74 following a dunk by JaVale McGee early in the fourth quarter but never got closer. Gary Payton II scored on consecutive possessions, added a breakaway two-handed dunk, then followed with a short jumper to put Golden State ahead by 20.
Three days after going 4 of 21 while missing 11 of 14 3-point tries in Phoenix, Curry shot 8 of 20 with six 3s, five rebounds and five assists.
Andrew Wiggins added 19 points as Golden State extended its home winning streak to 11. Draymond Green had nine points, nine assists and nine rebounds to go with six steals and three blocks.
“They got us at their home so we had to come here and protect our house,” Wiggins said. “They made it hard for us. Facing them is going to be a battle all the time.”
Deandre Ayton had 23 points and six rebounds for Phoenix. Chris Paul added 12 points and eight assists.
Williams had tried his best to keep talk about the streak to a minimum while at the same time encouraging his players to relish the ride. He won’t have to worry about that anymore following Phoenix’s first loss since Oct. 27.
Now the talk is which team is the one to beat in the West, with their next meeting set for Christmas in Phoenix.
“Not quite sure who it is but it’s good to be in that category,” Williams said.
Playing the second half of a back-to-back and again without injured leading scorer Devin Booker, the Suns fell behind by double digits early and spent the rest of the night trying to catch up.
Curry made it an impossible climb.
The two-time MVP hit his first two 3s, completed a three-point play amid chants of “MVP! MVP!” and made another shot beyond the arc to put the Warriors up 49-37.
“We were, especially in the second half, much more patient,” Kerr said. “Once we settled down after that sort of disastrous final four minutes of the second quarter, we were really poised, competed and earned a really good win.”
The Suns trailed by 11, then closed the second quarter on an 8-0 run to pull within 51-48 before the Warriors pulled away in the second half.
“The winning streak was a lot of fun,” Paul said. “Been a long time since we felt a loss but hell, let’s start a new one.”