OAKLAND -- The coaches often talk about "the process." The players sometimes talk about "the process." And on Saturday night, the Warriors return to a place where "the process" was never more painful.
The last time they were in Phoenix, the Warriors were listless in defeat, so exasperating their coaches that assistant Pete Myers tore into them during a timeout and head coach Mark Jackson unloaded on them after the game.
The players, to their credit, acknowledged they'd put forth the kind of effort that invited withering critiques.
What followed that Dec. 15 loss was the most impressive stretch of the season, 12 games during which the Warriors won 11, including a 29-point vengeance rout of the Suns. It was as if they were on a mission.
But "the process" -- the phrase used to describe the team's transformation from competitive irrelevance to global significance -- has multiple facets. There will be nights of joy, nights of agony, nights of frustration, nights of jubilation.
Nights when they beat a contender, nights when they lose to weakling.
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"It's part of the process," coach Mark Jackson says. "You have to be able to handle trials, tribulations and adversity. It's part of the process."
Realizing and accepting their new status is part of the process. Losing to the mediocre Timberwolves, beating the powerful Trail Blazers and then losing to the mediocre Wizards, in order? It's part of the process.
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"You're not sneaking up on anyone," forward Draymond Green says. "That's an adjustment. Any time you go from being on the bottom of the crop to one of those on top, where every team coming in here is going to play hard, everywhere you go, they're going play hard . . . anytime those things happen, you have to be able to adjust to that. It takes an adjustment period.
"Sometimes, it takes a little longer to adjust than you would want it to. But it's all about getting better. And we're getting better. There's going to be nights like we had against Charlotte. You hate it, but it's a part of basketball."
The current stage of the "the process" means playing without productive power forward David Lee and center Andrew Bogut on Saturday. Neither played Thursday, yet the Warriors overwhelmed the Bulls, 102-87, falling behind by 16 (34-18) early in the second quarter then outscoring Chicago 84-53 the rest of the game.
It's part of the growth process, which the Warriors felt loud and clear last Dec. 15 in Phoenix. That was a night they'll never forget. They shortchanged themselves and flew back home having endured a part of the process they'd just as soon avoid.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Stephen Curry vs. Goran Dragic. Curry almost has to draw Dragic, because the other four Phoenix starters are either too long or too heavy. If Curry can stay in front of Dragic, it allows Jackson to use wing defenders Iguodala and Thompson elsewhere. If not, the coach could be forced to put one on Dragic.
Green vs. Channing Frye. At 6-foot-11, with a terrific 3-point shot, Frye is the very definition of a stretch power forward. He torched Lee in the Dec. 15 game, so Andre Iguodala and Green spent a lot of time shadowing Frye in the Warriors' Dec. 27 win.
Iguodala/Thompson vs. Gerald Green. With Eric Bledsoe out, Green has moved into the starting lineup and is playing well. A very athletic 6-foot-8 slasher with a great outside shot, Green is equally capable of igniting rallies with bombs or dunks.
INJURY UPDATE: For the Warriors, C Bogut (shoulder inflammation), F Lee (left shoulder sprain, left hip strain), C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and G Nemanja Nedovic (right foot inflammation, strained left hamstring) are out.
For the Suns, G Eric Bledsoe (right knee surgery) and C/F Emeka Okafor are out.
LAST 10: Warriors 5-5, Suns 7-3.
SERIES HISTORY: The teams split two games earlier this season, each winning on its home court, but the Warriors have won seven of the last eight games overall.