The Knicks defeated the short-handed Golden State Warriors in an absolute barn-burner to spoil Stephen Curry’s eruption for an NBA season-high, 54 points. What looked like it was going to be breezy win for the Knicks in the early going turned into an edge-of-your-seat, big-play-after-big-play trade-off between two teams who desperately wanted to come away with a win. Curry nearly gave the Warriors the game, throwing them on his shoulders as he repeatedly launched from downtown, lighting the Garden ablaze with a multitude of long shots, contested and open. In the game’s final minutes, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony each scored big baskets for the Knicks, and Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumpert contributed big plays on the defensive end to give the Knicks the edge.
The first quarter was hardly indicative of what was to come later in the game. Both teams struggled out of the gate, the Warriors missing two-thirds of their frontcourt with Andrew Bogut out with a cranky back, and David Lee suspended because of his scuffle with the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night.
The Knicks, meanwhile, defended more ably than we’d seen in opening quarters in quite awhile. Their offense, however, took awhile to get going as Anthony continued his mini-slump from outside, while Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert both laid bricks. The positive for the Knicks was Tyson Chandler’s youthful energy as he ravished the boards, collecting 10 rebounds in a matter of six minutes. He also skied to finish alley-oops and clean up misses from his out-of-tune teammates.
The Knicks’ defensive energy stemmed largely from Chandler’s dominance on the boards and Shumpert’s sudden aggressiveness in his on-ball defense. Shumpert bounced back and forth guarding Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry, and was able to pester each of them, nabbing three steals in the opening period, showing signs of his exciting rookie year D. Chandler, too, bothered the Warriors into a couple turnovers, after which the Knicks generally looked to push the pace. One particularly splendid Shumpert steal from Curry led to a fastbreak dunk for Smith.
The Warriors struggles forced Mark Jackson to go very small, putting the 6’8″ Carl Landry at center, with Barnes at power forward, Thompson at the three, and Curry and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt. This small lineup prompted Anthony to go down on the right block where he continually abused whomever tried to guard him. Even when he missed, Chandler was able to finish over the much smaller Warriors. Anthony and the Knicks finally got some rhythm on offense and finished the quarter up 27-18.
One quarter of solid defense appeared to be enough for the Knicks, however. Part of this was because Steph Curry decided one quarter of offensive ineptitude was enough for his team, too. After a first quarter of crisp rotations and harassing on-ball defense, the Knicks suddenly got sloppy. They switched like mad (as usual), dipped under screens, sent oddly timed doubles, and missed rotations. Often times, the Warriors simply swung the ball, where late-arriving Knicks were left in the dust as the Warriors launched from downtown or blew past the close-outs to create in the lane. On offense, the Knicks began to rely too heavily on jumpers and couldn’t navigate the pick-and-roll with either the foul-bedeviled Amar’e Stoudemire or with Chandler.
And then there was Stephen Curry. Shumpert drew the assignment and did a commendable job on Curry, but there wasn’t any stopping him tonight. Curry danced and pranced with the ball, sneaked into the lane for floaters and layups, and canned a whole bag full of three-pointer off the catch and off the dribble. The Warriors went on a 16-5 run (13 of which came from Curry), and suddenly, there was a ball game to be played, as the Knicks’ lead had all but disintegrated.
The Knicks bench gave them little help, and it was the starters that had to stop the bleeding. Shumpert provided the Knicks with more good play, at one point diving on the ground to get a steal, and on the ensuing possession, feeding Chandler with a drop-off pass for an and-one layup. Later he leaked out for a fastbreak, Eurostep’d Curry, and dropped in a layup.
Felton and Anthony also provided a few big baskets, mostly from deep, to keep the steaming Warriors from gaining any real momentum. A stepback jumper in the lane from Jarrett Jack cut the Knicks lead to three at the end of the half. The Knicks led 58-55, but gave up 23 points to Curry in the quarter, and 37 to the Warriors as a team.
Stephen Curry opened up the second half in the same exact rhythm. Within three minutes, Curry had racked up 8 points and 1 assist to kick things off. However, Carmelo Anthony’s rhythmic jumper and Tyson Chandler’s size advantage down low kept the Knicks in the game, despite Golden State rallying off 12 quick points in those opening three minutes.
After the initial explosion, the Knicks were able to contain Curry a little bit, and later in the quarter, they found a nice groove with Anthony acting as they playmaker. Anthony fed Stoudemire in the post for a nice little jump-hook, hit Smith for a three-pointer, and then later in a 4-5 pick-and-roll with Chandler, hit a cutting STAT with a pretty feed for an open dunk. However, even when the Knicks began to get their footing again, the Warriors responded with some playmaking from Jarrett Jack, scoring his own points and setting up his depleted, but still-fighting frontcourt.
In the final minute, J.R. Smith canned a big three-pointer off an offensive rebound to put the Knicks up six. Of course, seconds later, Steph Curry re-awoke and knocked down a three of his own to bring the Warriors back within three. Going into the fourth quarter, the Knicks led 84-81.
The fourth quarter began the pivotal, gun-slinging battle of the game. Curry continued to scorch the Knicks, knocking down yet another three-pointer, his eighth of the game at that point. He also hit Landry in the pick-and-roll for a layup, and shook his way to the basket for a layup of his own.
The Knicks responded, though, with their same brand of offense. Stoudemire posted up for an easy, close basket; J.R. Smith hit a three-pointer of his own; and Carmelo Anthony and Chandler ran another 4-5 pick-and-roll, leading to another dunk for Stoudemire off of another great find from Anthony.
Curry just couldn’t be denied, though. With the Warriors down two with over five minutes remaining, he pulled down a rebound off of an Anthony miss, sprinted down the court, pulled up from three, and sank it. 49 points. Smith would respond with a three-pointer of his own on the next possession, but yet again, Curry answered back, this time burning Felton with a behind-the-back dribble, and launching a three over Chandler’s extended hand. 52 points. Anthony brought the Knicks back with a game-tying three-pointer off of an offensive board by Chandler.
However, it was the Knicks that came through in the clutch. On previous possessions, Felton failed to capitalize on open threes after Carmelo Anthony unselfishly passed out of a double team. However, on defense, Felton came up big by sticking with a clearly exhausted Curry, and blocking his shot to regain possession.
On the next time down the court, with the game tied, Anthony kicked it out to Felton, who swung the ball to Shumpert, who swung it to Smith in the corner. Smith evaded a late rotation, got to the elbow, threw a head fake, pulled up and hit the jumper to put the Knicks up two. On the ensuing possession, after Chandler and Shumpert trapped Jack into traveling, Anthony went iso, backed down his defender, and hit a turn-around jumper to put the Knicks up four.
Seconds after, the Knicks stole the inbounds pass and worked the clock down to 34 seconds before Felton was fouled and put at the line. He, of course, missed both free throws, but got his own offensive rebound. The Knicks ran the ball around the court, evading the Warriors, and even got Anthony a nearly open layup attempt. He missed it.
With the Knicks out of the clear yet, the Warriors hustled down the court for some desperation threes. Klay Thompson, however, missed two contested looks in a row, and the Warriors failed to get the ball to Curry. The Knicks collected the rebound, ran out the clock, and took the win. It was all very exciting and chaotic.
- It’s tough to say enough good things about Anthony’s game tonight. Though he shot a less-than-desirable 10-26 from the field for 35 points, his looks were all pretty clean, he got to the free throw line for 15 attempts, and passed the ball as well as we’ve seen this season. 8 assists for Mr. ‘Melo, who was robbed of several others by missed shots from teammates. Five critical points in the final two minutes, too.
- J.R. Smith was also equally delightful. Smith played a more efficient game, netting 26 points on 19 shots, and 6-11 shooting from behind the arc. He also came down with five rebounds, and played some noteworthy defense when asked to defend the unstoppable Curry. He had the go-ahead basket, too, so have yourself a slice of cake or something tonight, J.R.
- Also, tip of the hat to Steph Curry. In my fourteen years as a Knick fan, I’ve seen some classics (usually woeful, though, as the Knicks never seem to win these), but I enjoyed Curry’s explosion tonight. When a player draws moans and excited, fearful cheers from the Garden crowd as soon as he touches the ball, he’s done something well. He finished with 54 points on 18-28 shooting, 11-13 from downtown, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals. He also played the full 48 minutes and looked completely spend by the end of them. It was an OK night.
- Overshadowed by Curry’s magnificence and Smith and Anthony’s big shots was Tyson Chandler’s masterful performance. 42 minutes, 16 points, and a career-high 28 rebounds. Have yourself as many pieces of cake was you want, Tyson – you earned it.
- A big factor tonight: 18 turnovers for the Warriors, 10 for the Knicks.
- Iman Shumpert played his best game of the month, as far as I’m concerned. He hardly played in the second half despite Curry’s slaughtering of the Knicks’ backcourt, but this was the first game I’d seen where Shump consistently looked like the player of last season. He got some tough bounces on shot attempts, but otherwise played great, pestering defense on ball-handlers, and finished with four steals and that critical forced turnover on Jack.
That about covers it. Among the game this season, this has to rank as one of the most entertaining. And for once, the Knicks came out on top against a masterful performance from an opponent. No game tomorrow for the Knicks, but a game Friday against the Wizards, and Sunday against Miami. So rest up, Knicks, because you don’t get to survive many games like this.