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The Warriors Were 97% to Win. But This Was the Other 3%.

Here’s a fact that is pretty obvious. When the point spread on a game is big, the favorite usually wins.

In the 39 N.B.A. games since 2003 with a spread of 18 or higher, the favorite won them all, according to the Teamrankings.com database.

It wasn’t quite an 18-point spread when the Golden State Warriors faced the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, but it was close. Depending on where you gamble, the Warriors were favored by 16 to 17 points. Games in that range are still won by the favorites 97 percent of the time.

Few should have been surprised by the big line on Sunday. The Suns are bad, going into the game with a record of 15-52, worse than anyone but the Knicks. And the Warriors are the Warriors. Not only that, but the game was being played at Golden State.

The chance of an upset had shrunk from microscopic to infinitesimal at the 2:58 mark of the first quarter when the Warriors led by 16 points. A ho-hum blowout seemed to be in the offing.

The Suns won the game.

Devin Booker had 37 points and 11 assists in the shocking victory. “We came in, we fought, we were down 16,” forward Kelly Oubre Jr. told The Arizona Republic. “We still fought. We came up with a big win against the best team in the N.B.A.”

The Suns are actually on a bit of a roll, having won five of their last seven. Don’t start checking the playoff race though: Those wins came immediately after a franchise-worst 17-game losing streak.

And cynical Suns fans don’t have to worry either. The team is still three games away from slipping out of the bottom three, the teams that have an equal chance of nabbing the No. 1 pick in the draft, probably Zion Williamson of Duke.

It was the first Suns win over the Warriors since November 2014. That was 18 straight games of futility against Golden State, the longest active losing streak by one team against another.

Klay Thompson of the Warriors (10-for-22 for 28 points) had a curious take afterward, pointing a finger at the home fans. “I expect our crowd to be a little more into it,” he said. “At least you could stand up or something when we make a good play, especially at the beginning. We need that energy, especially at this time of year. Its hard to conjure up energy every single night.”

The Warriors, who have the third best record in the league but are still the heavy championship favorites, had better get some energy in a hurry. They now go on a four-game road trip with a much tougher lineup of foes, starting with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Their top seed in the West — they are currently a game and a half ahead of the Denver Nuggets — could be under threat.

The Suns will miss the playoffs for the ninth straight year (the second longest streak after the Kings). But they will always have the night they won as 17-point underdogs. Outright.


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