When: 4:30pm PST - Monday, February 25th
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
How to watch: CSNBA
How to listen: 95.7 The Game
Friendly Buddy’s blog: Posting and Toasting
Warriors: Jordan Bell (left ankle inflammation), questionable, Patrick McCaw (left wrist fracture), out
Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis (torn ACL), Ron Baker (right shoulder), out
Post-All Star break switch is activated
Fresh off of a hearty annihilation of the reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook and his feisty Oklahoma City Thunder, the Golden State Warriors get a chance to face a wounded Eastern conference bottom-feeder. The Warriors overpowered the New York Knicks last January in a sleepy 123-112 thumping. In this game, the champs were unengaged and fell down double digits in the first period to a game Knicks squad. Eventually the Dubs stormed back, but that poor opening was a microcosm of a disturbing trend for the team this season: terrible opening quarters.
The team’s 14 losses is the most they’ve ever had at the All-Star break under head coach Steve Kerr’s leadership, and those bad first quarters kept forcing the team to have heroic second halves to clean up the damage. The Warriors have plugged Javale McGee into the starting line up post-All Star break to inject some athleticism and versatility from tipoff while rookie Jordan Bell heals up.
The Warriors outscored the Thunder 24-19 in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game, after being waylaid by a combined score of 75-56 in the first two matches between the teams. The champs’ stingy, active defense set the tone early and forced Oklahoma City to run their (non-existent) offensive sets as opposed to getting easy buckets out of isolations and pick-and-rolls. This type of defense fuels the high-octane offensive pyrotechnics that make Warriors basketball unstoppable, and with 22 games left in the season, it’s a welcome sight to see.
Can the Knicks protect the Garden?
Snakebitten All-Star Kristaps Porzingis missed the last tilt between these two teams due to injury, and he will not play the rest of the season with his knee injury. It’s unfortunate, not only for his budding career, but also for this game’s entertainment value. The 7-foot-3 Porzingis is an intriguing prospect, and his battles against the 6-foot-5ish Draymond Green are always a curious sight. Sigh.
Thankfully, the Knicks can still send out good ol’ Enes Kanter. The outspoken big man has a nice offensive repertoire in the paint, and a casual beef with Kevin Durant, his former Thunder teammate. In fact, Kanter was a part of Durant’s OKC team that blew the 3-1 lead to the Warriors. Check out this quote from Newsday:
“I play for the Knicks, so whoever I go against, I don’t like them,” Kanter said after practice Sunday. “But Golden State a little bit more . . . It’s because of the history we have...Whenever I’m on the court, I will try everything to get in his (Kevin Durant’s) mind.”
While Kanter is worried about getting in Durant’s head, KD is looking to get all over the stat sheet in his once-a-year visit to Madison Square Garden. Durant averages 28 points and 7 rebounds for his career against New York, and had 14 assists the last time he faced them in Oakland (he was also ejected for arguing calls).
The Knicks have won one of their past ten games, and don’t have the star power or depth to compete with the Golden Empire. If the Warriors give a damn, this game should be over in the third quarter.
Hopefully nobody gets a needless technical foul that could get them suspended later on during a hotly contested race for the best record in basketball (*stares at Durant and Green*).
Gold-blooded prediction: Warriors 110, Knicks 97