Coming off a close loss in Atlanta, the Warriors had a chip on their shoulders.
Arguably one of the most important games of the season ended Friday night with a loss, showing more that Atlanta was for real rather than the Warriors weren't ready for primetime. Mending their wounds, they were treated with a trip to NYC. The Knicks are not only subpar at home, but look to have written off this season so far as a bust. Sporting a makeshift lineup around Carmelo Anthony (Jason Smith is getting starter's minutes!), this Knicks team has been less "bust", more "dumpster fire". Phil Jackson has not been the instant ointment that they thought he would be coming in year one, and the locals in New York have already questioned if he is steering this franchise in the right direction. What an ideal time for Golden State to waltz into town needing a solid victory to get back on the winning track. Would Curry repeat his huge effort from last year back in New York? Would the Knicks lay down in the face of the Western Conference leaders?
It seemed very clear from the moment that Carmelo was announced to take tonight's game off that the Warriors were in solid position to take tonight's game from the Knicks easily. Instead the Warriors delivered mostly uninspired basketball, showing signs of road and season fatigue that allowed the Knicks to keep hope all night. It took a solid late effort from the starters to steal victory from the growing feeling of defeat.
We break down the match up below.
The Warriors got out to an early advantage behind solid offense from Draymond Green and an overall effort on defense to hold off New York from getting any early momentum. An early 15-0 run threatened the expected blowout. Green put in 16 early points behind accuracy behind the arc that he has not shown in recent games. Despite poor shooting from the Splash Brothers, the Warriors were consistently on the break looking to push the score. The first quarter was a blowout, watching Golden State push to a 32-19 lead, but the second quarter was a different story.
Amar'e Stoudemire brought amazing effort off the bench, giving the Warriors trouble all night. He looked like a man hoping to earn a spot on a contender. Amare showed strong interior scoring, good rebounding effort and flashes of his younger, more successful self. Don't mind that he was abusing the soft defense of David Lee for the most part, but he still generated hope for New York to avoid the early deficit.
The Warriors seemed to have a hard time taking the Knicks seriously all night - playing with a sense of arrogance, but never with a sense of urgency. This played and watched more like an exhibition for them rather than a game they should win by 40. They showed flashes of the soft defense that got them in trouble in Atlanta, almost wiling teams to miss shots rather than the pressure to make them miss. The Warriors went into the half leading 64-48, but the score was misleading. Golden State let a larger lead dwindle down behind efforts shown by Jose Caledron and Langston Galloway. The way to lose to young inconsistent teams is to make them feel like they have a chance to win by giving them hope, and the Knicks run at the end of the second quarter made a 16 point lead feel much smaller than it should have.
The Warriors held their lead through the start of the third quarter with good movement, hot shooting by Curry and a solid team effort. Once the starters took a rest, the Knicks took advantage of silly turnovers and their own hot shooting to continue the threat of a comeback. They abused soft defense and poor rebounding shown by the front line with Bogut and Draymond Green on the bench. New York crawled their way back into the game behind sheer effort and kept the home crowd in the game.
The fourth quarter threatenEd complete disaster. The Knicks ran off a 16-0 run and pushed the game into a five-point lead. The Warriors offense looked dismal behind turnovers and poor shooting. Even when Curry and crew got back into the game, Golden State looked simply angry, disgruntled they had to work as hard as they were. A five minute scoring drought allowing the Garden crowd back into the game. Credit the efforts of Iguodala and Harrison Barnes to force what they could out of the tired stagnant offense to finally score baskets to stop the run. The Warriors finally tightened up and held the Knicks to two points in the last four plus minutes of the game, fending off any chance of an upset. Curry took control behind two dagger threes under two minutes to silence the New York crowd and solidify the victory. It was disheartening to watch Golden State play down to an inferior opponent with an effort that won't go on any highlight reel. The Warriors limped out of New York with the victory, reminding us that it could have been a lot worse in the end.
- Klay's poor shooting night (5-22, 16 points) is worrisome. He seems to be forcing it out there at times, showing signs that he is trying to confirm to fans that he deserves the All-Star spot that he has earned. The Sacramento game was fantastic, but since then his shot as seemed inconsistent and he has looked frustrated. Let's hope being on the big national stage will help him solidify his confidence going into the second half.
- It's actually really nice to see Stoudemire healthy and contributing after recovering from years of injuries. That said, Warriors fans must be aware and scared that he will, after a buyout, probably end up on a Western conference contender. The Mavericks seem to have the lead on picking up his services if a buyout is figured out, and that would be incredibly dangerous.
- A Warriors weakness is their tendency, when momentum is lost, to go one on one, and play hero ball. They are bailed out by excellent shooting and skill, however when shots don't go down, they don't show the same urgency to get to the line and break down defenses like they should. Can they continue to find ways to be productive when the game slows down and defenses for the Warriors to work harder? This will be paramount to their success in the postseason.
- As a fan of basketball, I think it's sad to watch Carmelo watching from the bench. Personally, this writer lives in New York. This city is an amazing sports market with passionate fans begging for something to cheer for. Watching Carmelo go through the motions with a weak roster in flux is sad. The painful awareness that Anthony is all but checked out for the rest of this season is going to make for a very long second half to the season. New York begs for things like Linsanity and showdowns at the Garden, but get rewarded with DNPs and home blowouts.
- The adventure of David Lee and Speights has to be over by now, right? When both are on the floor, the Warriors turn into a midrange shooting team with poor defense and tired effort. This second unit needs Festus Ezeli back in to anchor the middle, allowing for a more balanced defensive effort and attack. Be glad the Knicks have a hard enough time shooting layups, as they were met with minimal rim protection and interior pressure when the starters were off the floor.
What Twitter was Saying
GSW schedule is so brutal, especially for Curry/Klay. ASG in NY, then 1 game at home before going back East for 6 straight on the road.
— GSW Hoops (@gswhoops) February 8, 2015
It was expected that the Warriors would be tired as part of the long road trip and a testing game on Friday night. Steve Kerr would have hoped for a dominating effort that would have allowed for Curry and boys to sit most of the second half. The route seemed to be on after the early lead, but the pesky Knicks found their way back into contention, forcing the Warriors to finally take the game seriously. Credit New York for having a few serviceable parts - Tim Hardaway Jr., Shane Larkin - that will be lucky enough to stay on as assets when the Knicks do rebuilt and retool. But for now, they are a mismatch of parts that simply isn't good enough to hold up against the Warriors half-hearted efforts. The All-Star break will not come soon enough in Oakland, and tonight was a sign of a mid-season throw away games that will be quickly forgotten, though happy it turned out in a win.