The Knicks wrap up their brutal West Coast swing tonight in the Bay Area against the Warriors.
New York comes into this game the losers of 14 of their last 16 and find themselves rapidly approaching the title of worst record in the NBA. As if this lopsided matchup wasn’t already daunting enough for the Knicks, tonight’s game is the dreaded second night of a back-to-back. The Knicks have struggled in this situation, posting a 1-6 record this season.
Earlier this season, the Knicks played Golden State extremely tough and even led after three quarters, before getting absolutely blitzed in the fourth en route to a 28-point defeat.
Golden State, despite the slightly disappointing start for their standards (26-14), still leads the league in field goal percentage and Offensive Rating. Steph Curry is having yet another MVP-caliber season, averaging 29.4 points per game—proving each night that he is the most integral piece of the Warriors’ dynasty. Kevin Durant is close behind Curry at 28.5 points per game and has his sights set on winning another ring and cashing in huge this offseason—potentially here in New York.
Where the Warriors have been vulnerable this season is with the “other guys.” Golden State’s bench depth isn’t what it used to be, with Shaun Livingston and Andre Igoudala on the decline due to old age. Also, the Warriors’ other two stars, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, haven’t been as productive as years past. Thompson has struggled with his shot all season, posting a career-low in three-point percentage. Klay, despite his off-year, still is averaging 21.1 points per game and is capable of going for 60 on any given night.
Green’s issues are more concerning, as his body seems to be breaking down. Draymond’s shooting and offensive numbers across the board have dipped, but he still remains a huge pain-in-the-butt defensive agitator who competes on every single play.
Knicks’ Shooting Woes
It’s no secret the Knicks’ offense has struggled this year, as they find themselves dead last in the NBA in field goal percentage (per NBA Stats). Almost every player across the board has seen their offensive productivity decline, most notably Tim Hardaway, Jr., Allonzo Trier, and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Trier is young, and his slump was expected at some point, so his offensive difficulties come with little surprise. Mudiay, despite setting the world on fire for a couple months, isn’t an offensive juggernaut and likely never will be. The Knicks caught lightning in a bottle with Mudiay’s earlier offensive production and can’t rely on him to drop 25+ points consistently going forward.
The real frustration lies with Hardaway, who has fallen off the face of the earth since he started the season as one of the better scoring guards in basketball. Hardaway’s struggles can be partially attributed to his plantar fasciitis foot ailment, but he has since been flat-out terrible recently and is a major reason why the Knicks have dropped so far in the standings. When you pay someone the type of money the Knicks gave THJ, you expect much more consistency, and he has been the opposite of that.
Fortunately, despite the losing, Hardaway is still out there playing hard and hungry to win games. If New York wants any chance at competing tonight, they must shoot the ball well, and this starts with him.
Tim Hardaway Jr. understands why fans want the team to lose, but says the Knicks still have to compete night in and night out pic.twitter.com/6IhYHnh5yY
— SNY (@SNYtv) January 4, 2019
One compliment you can give to this year’s Knicks roster is the overall toughness and grit the team possesses. Credit David Fizdale for instilling that within his team and lighting a fire under the guys, even though there is little to play for at this point.
In order for the Knicks to knock Golden State off of their game, they must be physical and nasty from the opening tip to the final buzzer. The Warriors’ Achilles’ heel is that they aren’t the most physically imposing team, and have proven to be a bit fragile and volatile when pushed around. Look for Enes Kanter—amid all of his issues with his home country of Turkey—to stir the pot a bit tonight, and be extra motivated and on edge.
The Knicks must find a way to agitate the Warriors in some way. Kanter down low and Frank Ntilikina could be the ones to throw Golden State off of their game. Don’t be surprised if things get chippy.