The New Rivalry of the Wild West

Updated: December 4, 2021

With the reemergence of the Golden State Warriors sharing Cali with the King down in the City of Angles, we all had assumed the hot ticket would be part 3 of the Bron-Steph era played out in the Western Conference Finals. But there is a new rivalry evolving between the two elite guards of an era in CP3 and the Baby Faced Assassin. The Phoenix Suns and the Dubs are not only the clear-cut best teams in the Pacific division but possibly the two elite franchises of the NBA as a whole. The buy-in on both ends of the floor from their stars all the way down to the last player on their benches has created unique yet equally explosive styles of play. In their first match-up, Chris Paul and the Suns drew first blood and took the W in the desert. Game two tonight, however, was a different story.

Andrew Wiggins who had been a shell of himself earlier in the week with reported back spasms came out the gate draped all over CP3 90 feet from the basket. In the first quarter he continuously picked up Paul in the backcourt, letting him know that with his scoring partner Devon Booker sidelined with the hamstring, Paul was his defensive assignment. They held CP to a pedestrian 12 points and 8 assists with 4 turnovers. Wiggins looked spry, not only with the jumper but inside the paint, bodying up Ayton at the rim creating contact without fear of the 7-footer.

Juan Toscano Anderson who just came off maybe his worst performance in the NBA with 5 turnovers laminated his revenge game with his poster-jam of the year baptizing ex-Warrior, JaVale McGee at the basket. The two wings who were nearly non-existent in Phoenix combined for 36 points on 11-14 shooting from the floor in San Francisco. Gary Payton II continues to blossom, scoring 19 of his own, finally stroking some shots out from distance with 3-3’s to match with his explosive above the rim theatrics. And as expected, Curry came out firing and continues to close the gap between himself and Ray Allen for the 3-point all-time record with 6 triples.

The real story though between these two teams was and will be the Ayton question and how Golden State expects to stop him inside with their lack of size. The first opening minutes of the 1st looked more of the same as what we had seen in the desert. Kevon Looney continued to get taken advantage of and looked like nothing more than a large traffic cone. However, halfway through the quarter, Draymond started to piece some of the puzzle pieces together he had been mapping out in the film sessions. With several forced low percentage jumpers 15 feet from the rim taken by young Ayton with Draymond draped all over him, it looked as if Green already has started to buy up small pieces of real estate inside of the young 7-footers head. While Phoenix was hosting the Pistons the night before, Draymond and coach Brown sat for hours analyzing tendencies and weaknesses. After a relatively close matchup through 2 quarters, by the end of the night, it had turned into a blood bath and a blowout that everyone will remember come Christmas day.

The thing is, Draymond doesn’t need to shut down DeAndre. If they want to feed him down low relentlessly and make that the focal part of their offense, he will inevitably get his numbers in the first half of games while he’s fresh and young. However, there were flashes that showed both coaching staffs that when push comes to shove, the death lineup is a viable option with Green at the 5. In these isolated matchups, Ayton’s ability to guard out on the perimeter will probably be enough to not be exposed by Christmas day. But come the playoffs…in a 7-game series…with not only Curry but Klay creating the tornado of off-ball movement and the greatest snipers in the history of basketball, don’t be surprised if there are games Kerr finds ways to get the young giant played off the floor.

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