The Warriors took on the New York Knicks for the first time in three weeks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
After Stephen Curry (37 points on 9-of-22, six rebounds and six assists) returned from an absence from a game, Kevon Looney played his first game since his left ankle sprain on February 2nd . James Wiseman returned from a sprain on January 30th, his left wrist suffered. The Warriors beat the Knicks (114-106) to avoid losing three straight for the first time this season and improving to 17-15.
After both centers were back in line for the first time in 10 games, Looney and Wiseman gave the Warriors exactly what they needed. Looney (two points, six rebounds, four assists, plus 17) put up strong screens, made punctual passes and ensured a reliable defense. Although Wiseman had his ups and downs, he was productive with 14 points in 16 minutes. Wiseman had an ice pack on his wrist after the game but said he felt « great » and Looney said he was still getting his stamina back after 20 minutes.
Having both centers available, head coach Steve Kerr gave 12 healthy bodies for the first time in nearly a month. Although the Warriors achieved some success during this stretch, they were able to compete with the greats of the Knicks – in particular with the newly named all-star Julius Randle (25 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) and Nerlens Noel (eight points, five rebounds) , three blocks) – the Golden State played a huge role in the color as it fought off New York’s late comeback by 13 points and held on to victory.
« It would have been really hard to let that one slip away, » said Kerr. “Without Loon and James we would not have won this game. We now have more options. »
In his first game since losing just before Saturday’s loss in Charlotte because he wasn’t feeling well, Curry got off to a sluggish start. At half time he only had 11 points and the Warriors were between 59 and 55. But Curry lit up in the second half. He scored 15 points in the third quarter and 11 in the 3:38 final to help the Warriors withdraw. Give credit to the curtsey. You’re third in the league’s defensive standings (one place ahead of Golden State) and you’ve defended Curry well. But there is only so much that can be done about Curry’s firing power and efficiency at the free throw line.
« They’re big and physical and make it difficult, » said Kerr. “But Steph found a way to score. It wasn’t easy, but he found a way and shot some big shots. »
Back to what happened in Charlotte. The Warriors weren’t sure what was bothering Curry, which led to his late scratch moments before Saturday’s tip. They just said it wasn’t a coronavirus. Speaking to reporters after the victory on Tuesday night, Curry recalled feeling « disoriented » and said « the room spun a little » before being dragged. Whatever it was, it seems fine now.
In the last 10 games, the Warriors have sharpened their Draymond Green anchored small-ball line-up. Although their big men were available against the Knicks, they went down the track after New York built a 13-point lead after a drought and ended the game in the middle of the fourth quarter. Kerr went to a forecourt owned by Eric Paschall and Green, and Paschall’s 6:36 dunk was Golden State’s first field goal in the closing stages. Eventually he got even smaller, graduating with Curry, Kent Bazemore, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, and Green. According to Cleaning The Glass, the Warriors with Green in the middle outperform the opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions. Even though they played the line-up late in the game, they will continue to do so.
One player was obviously not part of these units: Juan Toscano-Anderson. The 27-year-old striker had played well as a starter in the absence of Looney and Wiseman but now appears to be out of rotation.
« I think Juan will be in this league for a long time, » said Kerr, who told Toscano-Anderson to stand by when he decided to make the change. « He’ll be ready to go. That’s all of it. »
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