The Phoenix Suns (18-3) are the hottest team the NBA has seen in years, defeating the Golden State Warriors (18-3) Tuesday night for their 17th straight victory. The win tied Phoenix with Golden State atop the Western Conference standings more than a quarter into the 2021-2022 season.

The Suns are proving that last season’s run to the NBA Finals was no fluke. Phoenix’s 104-96 win against Golden State completed a perfect November, beating the league’s top teams in back-to-back games.

A few nights earlier, the Suns went on the road and beat the Brooklyn Nets (15-6), who have a 1.5-game lead for the East’s No. 1 seed.

Phoenix won Tuesday despite losing leading scorer Devin Booker for the second half with a hamstring injury. Deandre Ayton led the team with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Chris Paul had 15 points, 11 assists and five steals.

Stephen Curry was held to just 12 points on 4-of-21 shooting. Curry is the early MVP favorite with 27.8 points and 5.4 made three-pointers per game. The Suns are the only team to keep the Warriors from scoring 100 points in a game.

Golden State and Phoenix rank first and second, respectively, in defensive efficiency. Draymond Green is a top early candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. 

The Warriors were the last team to have as much sustained success as this year’s Suns. On their way to a record-setting 73 wins, Golden State started the 2015-2016 season with a 24-game winning streak. 

Thirteen teams in league history have put together a single-season winning streak of more than 17 games. The 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers own the record with 33 consecutive victories.

The Warriors don’t have to wait long before getting another shot to beat the Suns. After hosting the Detroit Pistons (4-17) on Thursday night, Phoenix visits Golden State on Friday night. The two teams will meet again on Christmas Day.

The Suns and Warriors are four games ahead of the No. 3 seed Utah Jazz (14-7). There’s seven games of separation between the West’s top teams and the No. 4 seed Dallas Mavericks (10-9). Dallas is only percentage points ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies (11-10) and Los Angeles Clippers (11-10).

The No. 7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves (11-10) and Los Angeles Lakers (12-11) are on the outside of the latest playoff picture. They are currently in the play-in tournament field with the Portland Trail Blazers (11-11) and Denver Nuggets (10-10).

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns Photo: Getty Images | Christian Petersen