If I may borrow a phrase from legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger. Knick fans were “looking live” at their team for the first time in nearly a year, but they were also “looking live” at one of the greatest all time shooters in NBA history.
Steph Curry was the difference as the Warriors spoiled the return of fans to the Garden with a 114-106 win. Curry scored 37 points, 26 in the second half, and did what great players do and that is making some huge shots and huge plays down the stretch.
The Knicks had a 59-55 lead at halftime, but Golden State looked like the 73-win team of a few years back as they opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run and never lost the lead. Curry scored a quick five points in that burst.
The Knicks trailed by as many as 13 in the second half. Julius Randle’s lay up tied the game at 97 with less than four minutes left, but then it was Curry time.
The two-time NBA MVP hit a demoralizing three pointer to give Golden State a 100-97 lead, and he ended up scoring 11 of the Warriors’ last 17 points. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeua has seen Curry’s “plate spinning act” before. “He’s a great shot maker, doesn’t take him much room to get his shot off and he never stops moving,” Thibodeau said.
After a strong first half, the Knicks could not get anything going in the second half. It was a frustrating and bizarre game because the Knicks were better in some categories that usually spelled victory. The Knicks outrebounded the Warriors 56-41, including an 18-7 edge on the offensive glass but those numbers were inflated as a result of poor shooting.
Knicks had a 50-44 advantage in points in the paint but that could’ve been 70. The Knicks were not shooting well from the perimeter and actually had the right approach in trying to get to the rim, but they had a lot of trouble finishing shots down low. According to the box score, the Knicks missed 9 lay ups in the fourth quarter alone and shot 39% for the game.
No one likes to blame the officials, much less a team that missed 9 lay ups in the fourth quarter, but the calls were inconsistent, and that’s being kind.
A pivotal point occurred with 59.8 seconds left. The Knicks were trailing 105-102, when the Warriors’ Kelly Oubre was apparently fouled by R.J. Barrett. The Knicks’ challenged the call but it was unsuccessful and Oubre hit two free throws to make it a five point game. “Sometime you get calls, sometimes you don’t. It just seemed like there was a lot of contact on our drives and we didn’t get the calls,” said Thibodeau. “It can’t be one way and that’s what you’re looking for, you’re looking for consistency.”
The Knicks started slow in this one and it appeared as if they were trying too hard to impress the live crowd. Thibodeau said that was something they could not afford to do against a team like Golden State. “The way we started the game, it’s hard when you give a team, that is that good and offensive minded, a lot of confidence early. It’s hard to get that turned off when they get going,” he said.
Randle, who, before the game, was named an NBA All Star for the first time, led the Knicks with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Elfrid Payton had 20 points but he was one of the main culprits who was missing lay ups. Derrick Rose was a spark off the bench with 16 points. Barrett had a rough night as he shot 1 of 9 and scored 4 points. Immanuel Quickley played in front of a live audience at the Garden for the first time but he also struggled with 3 points on 1 of 5 shooting.
The live crowd of 1,981 that was on hand for the first time in 353 days was a welcome sight. “It’s 2000 fans or whatever it is. It’s great to have them back and we appreciate their support,” Thibodeau said.
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