SAN FRANCISCO – The Knicks left their game in Denver.
Their improved defense, their shooting, their bench production – none of it made it to the Bay Area.
The Knicks did not resemble the team that managed a back-to-back sweep of the Jazz and Nuggets on Tuesday and Wednesday in the first quarter, and they failed to recover. In that fateful first 12 minutes, the Knicks fell behind 16 and treated the defense as an optional exercise, handling the ball without any semblance of concern. The positive vibes from those two wins felt like a distant memory as the defending champion Warriors played them Friday night in a one-sided 111-101 win at Chase Center.
“We played the second, third and fourth quarters as we had to play in the first quarter. But we had given them such a cushion that we didn’t give ourselves a real chance,” said coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Knicks (8-8) were regularly on the defensive, out of position as the Warriors’ ball movement tied them up. Their offense often resulted in forced shots or ball-handling errors. Golden State entered the game at a mediocre 6-9, but certainly didn’t look like a team struggling early in the season. The Warriors held the Knicks to 34.5 percent shooting, forced 16 turnovers and hit 18 three-pointers themselves.
Stephen Curry dribbled and shot laps around the Knicks, scoring 24 points to go with 10 assists, and Andrew Wiggins (20 points) was by far the better Canadian on the field, beating the slumping RJ Barrett, who scored 18 points but only went 6 -of-19 from the floor and 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
Julius Randle, who couldn’t come close to the virtuoso performance he delivered against the Nuggets on Wednesday, finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Jalen Brunson missed 11 of his 13 shots in an ineffective 13-point performance. To make matters worse, Cam Reddish suffered a groin injury in the third quarter and his status is day-to-day, according to Thibodeau.
“I played terrible,” said Brunson, typically responsible after a loss. “That is the common thread. I played terribly.”
Backup center Jericho Sims was the Knicks’ best player, recording a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.
The Knicks missed their first 10 three-point attempts and 26 of their first 31 total shots. Obi Toppin blew some dunks, hit the top of the backboard with a 3-pointer, and simply fell down as he brought the ball upfield on a rebound. Barrett, still struggling with his shot (he’s made one of his last 23 three-point attempts), hit the rim on an attempted pass from just inside the halfway mark. And the Knicks’ perimeter defenses, improved early in the draft, were nowhere to be seen.
The Warriors hit seven of their first 13 attempts from distance and led by double digits by just 3:34 inches. Golden State had a 16-point lead after a quarter and led by 21 points after Curry double-teamed behind his back for a layup with barely two minutes left before halftime.
“They just played a little faster than us,” Brunson said. “We got into the game more or less easily.”
The Knicks finally responded to that point and began an 11-1 run to get within 11 at the break. Randle, who came alive after a quiet start, scored nine of those runs. It was a manageable deficit considering the Knicks were outshot, out-hustled and outplayed by the Warriors in the first 24 minutes.
But the second half started much as most of the first half had gone: back-to-back force shots from Randle and Barrett and a Curry 3-pointer. The Warriors’ lead was soon back to 16, after Curry found Draymond Green all alone at the top of the arc for their 13th made three-pointer of the night.
The Knicks scraped to eight with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get any closer. The Warriors went on a 13–3 run to sideline the game.
“We still have a chance to make it a great trip,” Randle said. “We have two more games, two more very winnable games. We have the chance to make it a great trip and go home feeling good about ourselves.”