So, let's just do this right now:
I will make a non-controversial statement: This was the best game Stephen Curry has ever played. That was probably the best game a Golden State Warrior has played in a decade. He finished with a career-high 54 points, a Warriors franchise record (and one away from the all-time NBA record) of 11 made threes, led the team in assists with seven, led the team in steals with three, and even tied the team lead in rebounds with six (we'll get to that later). Steph's 54 is the third most points scored by a visiting player in Madison Square Garden since 1968, behind Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
Listen, the guy shot 11 for 13 from three. If the entire Houston Rockets team went 11 for 13 from three against us, we'd be questioning the motives of God. Steph himself activated Godmode tonight. Those shots were raining from the heavens, arcing up out of the screen frame and dropping through the net like the rim wasn't there. The ball could have literally caught fire NBA Jam-style and my feelings of awe and amazement would have been the same.
And when he wasn't scorching the earth from downtown, he was blowing past lousy Knicks perimeter defenders, even good Knicks perimeter defenders like Iman Shumpert, finding open teammates on the rare occasions that they were in corporeal form, and finding his own touch on the drive. I love that Steph has apparently retired his broken Tony Parker-esque teardrop in favor of his new oldschool finger roll floater. He was able to get the ball up softly and in advance of any potential shot-blocking opportunities.
Curry did turn the ball over four times. You kinda have to expect some giveaways when your lead ball handler and offensive weapon plays 48 minutes. And you can live with that. The Knicks at times tried trapping him, and otherwise ran defenders at him in the hopes of making life difficult. But who else were you going to give the ball to?
Tonight, nobody. Jarrett Jack had a respectable game, going 6-15 from the field and taking some pressure off of CurryGod. But he had some of the dumbest turnovers imaginable: dribbling right into baseline double-teams, losing the handle on a three-on-two opportunity, etc. He had four giveaways of his own, but in 37 minutes. And he didn't provide much in the help stats: two assists and four rebounds just weren't enough.
Carl Landry also had a respectable offensive performance, going 3-4 from the field and doing a great job of forcing the referees to test their whistles on that end of the floor. He went 9-10 from the free throw line, and that certainly helped them stay in this game. But Landry had only three rebounds, in a whopping 32 minutes, and didn't exactly box out Tyson Chandler when he was tasked to. Landry also had an appalling five turnovers, most of those coming on clumsy fumbles right under the basket that should probably have also been fouls, had he done a better job of protecting the ball. Turnovers were one of the four reasons we lost this game tonight.
David Lee didn't help this team at ALL tonight. Oh yeah, because he was suspended. And his absence was certainly felt, particularly on the boards. A second reason the Warriors lost tonight was rebounding. The team was outrebounded 46-38, giving up an impossible 28 rebounds to Chandler. Yeah, the Warriors only had 10 more rebounds than Chandler corralled all by his lonesome. He had 10 rebounds in the first seven minutes of the game, and a few easy buckets, leading to a quick banishment of Andris Biedrins and what would become a feverish forbearance of Mark Jackson's toward playing a center throughout most of the game. Chandler had 10 offensive rebounds — twice as many as the entire Warriors team!
The third reason the Warriors lost tonight was the officiating. These last two games are not going into the referee hall of fame. Against Indiana, they put their whistles away and let them play — which inevitably led to boiling blood and culminated in the tussle that left us without our starting power forward tonight. And against the Knicks, well... the refs read the names on the front and back of #7's jersey and blew whistles accordingly. David Stern also knows the code to activate Godmode.
Still, it's not very interesting to complain about officiating, and it's certainly not the ultimate reason why they lost this game. You couldn't blame this one on defensive effort either; the Knicks were taking plenty of poor, low-percentage shots, shooting only 41.4% from the field. Aside from the 13-15 from the foul line (and one can't actually ignore that), Carmelo Anthony only shot 10-26 FG, and saw some pretty good defense from Draymond Green and, yes, even Klay Thompson.
No, this was mostly about rebounding and turnovers. The rebounding was confounding, as Jackson seemed to have fallen in love with the offensive production of Landry early in the game, and refused to counter the painful, and painfully obvious, size disparity that caused the rebounding problems. In the 4th quarter, when both Chandler and Amare Stoudemire were on the court with Carmelo, Jackson stuck with Landry and Green, a pairing that, unlike Landry and Lee, isn't going to give you the offensive firepower to withstand any potential calamity caused by the lack of size. Well, Chandler's work on the boards was downright calamitous all night for the Warriors, and at least Festus Ezeli's size and Biedrins' own rebounding prowess could have mitigated it.
Jackson, by extension of the Warriors' offense, generally seemed discombobulated in the absence of David Lee. Execution was lacking early on, screens were sloppy, off-ball movement felt off-kilter. The fourth and final reason the Warriors lost tonight was the offensive failings of Thompson, Green, and Harrison Barnes, who continues his Invisible Man act. Klay again inexcusably missed multiple gimme layups, as well as a few wide open three pointers, that could have made the difference in this game.
If it weren't for Curry's heroics, this probably would have been a blowout. Instead, he put on one of the greatest shows by a Golden State Warrior of my lifetime. He willed them, time and time again, longball after longball, to stay in the game. And this game will be remembered by most of the world as the day Steph set the world on fire. But in the standings it's an L, and I can't help but think it didn't have to be.