In the summer of 2014, it seemed as if the Warriors would end the first round of their coaching search empty-handed.
Just days after firing Mark Jackson, Golden State's short list for their next head coach was rumored to have only two names: Stan Van Gundy and Steve Kerr. When Van Gundy quickly accepted the Detroit Pistons job, and Steve Kerr was linked to the New York Knicks and his guru Phil Jackson, the Warriors' options were limited.
Then, out of the blue, the Warriors snagged Kerr away from the Knicks, and the rest is history: the Warriors won the championship last year, and have had one of the best seasons of all time in 2016. Meanwhile, the Knicks' hire of Jackson favorite Derek Fisher ended poorly, the team languishing in mediocrity. Kurt Rambis is now their interim coach, with rumors of the Warriors' own Luke Walton and even Phil Jackson taking the reins next year.
Despite their coaching woes, the Knicks have quietly improved this year. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis has made waves as a shooter, putback dunker, and shotblocker, and new veteran additions in Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo have brought in some stability. But a glaring hole at point guard (Jose Calderon is starting!) and Sasha Vujacic actually getting rotation minutes has sunk their team after a surprisingly hopeful start to the season. Without a first round pick next draft, it could be difficult to find more talent, notwithstanding the tiny chance of a superstar signing in New York.
Keys to the Game
Last time the Warriors played the Knicks in January, Madison Square Garden was treated to a substandard Stephen Curry performance, but a scintillating shooting night by Klay Thompson and a Draymond Green triple-double. The Warriors simply looked too fast for the Knicks, as bigs like Porzingis were lost when guarding the perimeter. Here's what the Dubs can do today:
- Exploit Calderon/Jerian Grant: Stephen Curry and other Warriors ballhandlers should be able to pick apart the two-steps-too-slow Calderon and the rookie Grant.
- Run: Carmelo Anthony, Porzingis, and Lopez may be a physically imposing frontcourt, but they'll be at a huge speed disadvantage against the Warriors' run-and-gun approach.
- Turnovers: For real, this is a key every night.
Steph goes for 35+ and three viral Vines, Harrison Barnes hits some open threes, James Michael McAdoo impresses in the open floor, Anderson Varejao and Robin Lopez get their hair tangled in the paint, Mo Speights continues his hot streak, and the Warriors limit the Knicks to under 40% shooting on the way to a 115-98 win.