Golden State's 116-95 win over New York was that blue moon of a game that's both utterly entertaining yet utterly devoid of any drama. Everything you knew would happen happened: the Knicks showed spirit through the first half, only trailing by six entering the third quarter, but the Warriors landed a series of haymakers in as they continued their rampage through the NBA.
The bout began slowly, with the teams combining to miss their first nine shots. It was like two prizefighters feeling each other out, if both of those fighters were Glass Joe. Golden State scored the first seven points, then the Knicks ran off 14 unanswered. It was fun while it lasted: Steph Curry was missing shots and turning the ball over; Draymond Green airballed a free throw; Robin Lopez was dropping okey-dokeys in the post and comfortably drilling 20-foot jumpers off-glass, a.k.a. it was a good time, but it was never gonna last.
Derek Fisher said before the game that his players needed to surrender the fear of embarrassment when confronting the Warrior juggernaut. The Warriors stumbled out of the gate but never looked ashamed of struggling, made manifest by going all NBA Jam on-fire as a collective and drilling 14 of 17 shots in the second quarter.
The Knicks started the second half the same way they did the first: not hitting a basket for four and a half minutes. You can't go scoreless for 20% of the game and survive against Golden State, and the Knicks didn't, falling behind by 17 after three and 20+ in the fourth. Pick whatever video game boss or level you've ever struggled with the most. That's the Warriors. However many times you hit them, they land a couple superpowered hits and you're done.
- Figurative white flag #1: in the fourth, Curry hit what felt like a dagger over Melo to push the lead back to 16. On Golden State's next possession, Curry was again guarded by Melo, who literally resorted to putting his hand on Steph's head and holding him in place. Usually Carmelo plays bully ball on offense. Perhaps this was a vain attempt to exorcise the demons guiding the MVP's inhuman shooting touch.
- Figurative white flag #2: Derek Fisher pulling Melo with four minutes left. 24 and 10 for a world-class player who ran into a world-class team.
- The bad news: Kristaps Porzingis may have hit the rookie wall. Tonight was his 50th game, equivalent to his total in the Spanish league last year, and on several possessions, especially defending Draymond Green, he looked like what 7'3" guys usually look like: slow.
- The good news: even a dead-legged Porzingis still finished with 14 and 6 in 20 minutes.
- One interesting first-half number: points in the paint were 18-16 GS, meaning both teams were mostly scoring outside the paint. Not good to get in a perimeter pissing contest with the Warriors. Especially with Steph Curry playing possum most of the night. When the little guy hasn't done anything, you know he's going to do something. And you know it's going to be good.
- Interesting point raised by Rebecca Haarlow: Curry is apparently in the discussion for this year's Most Improved Player. Sounds meh at first, but as Haarlow said, going from good to great is one thing, but from great to "revolutionary" is a rare bird indeed. Who's having this "discussion," by the way? The Bildebergs? The Freemasons? The Stonecutters?
- Arron Afflalo shot 2 for 12 and actually looked like he shot worse. I don't know if it's a veteran vs. rookie thing, or that he's got a player option he's hoping to capitalize on next summer, or if he just sees the floor in a way I can't, but when Afflalo runs a pick-and-roll with Porzingis and there's a mismatch on the switch, he never feeds KP in the post. He always tries to score on the big guarding him.
- Golden State defenders get up in guys' grills. Like, noticeably. I feel like half their roster was in every Knicks' chest tonight.
- Galloway fed KP way too early on a break, leading to an offensive foul. But KP needs to develop a midrange pull-up when in transition. Too often he commits charges or tries shots with degrees of difficulty that'd make Tatiana Gutsu blush. (props to y'all gymnast geeks who got that).
- Langston Galloway started for the groinally injured Jose Calderon, who missed his third straight game. He's currently day-to-day for Tuesday's game vs. Boston. As are we all.
- I love the Porzingis putback slams as much as the next person. But when the crash comes up empty, it leaves the Knicks shorthanded as the other team gets out and runs. The Warriors saw this and took advantage immediately.
- The first Knick guard off the bench was Sasha Vujacic, not Jerian Grant. Vujacic had some nice moments in the lead-in to garbage time. Not Grant's finest hour.
- One nice tomahawk dunk notwithstanding, this wasn't Derrick Williams' finest hour either. He didn't just shoot bricks; the man was lobbing cornerstones.
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo played the final minutes. Thanasis Antetokounmpo had two dunks, doubling his career total. At this rate by his seventh game, next Tuesday at MSG versus the Washington Wizards, Antetokounmpo will score 128 points on 64 of 64 shooting (all dunks), abolish the electoral college, balance the national budget, win a land war in Asia, and swallow the sun whole.
- Friday was the anniversary of Anthony Mason's first game in the NBA, with the New Jersey Nets. Watching a forward who can defend all five positions, rebound, dribble and pass the way Draymond Green can makes me wonder how Mase would've fared in today's game. Don't sleep on Mason's shooting prowess, either -- man led the Turkish league in three-point shooting one year.
- Every time Curry hits a three, I smile. Can't help it. Baseball's appeal, fundamentally, is its sacred and mysterious and perfect maths. Football is socialism in all its glorious, gluttonous ruin. Basketball is simply joy and light and evolving till transcendence. Steph is, too.
- If Marreese Speights lives a good and righteous life, his afterlife will be him launching open 20-footers from the top of the key for eternity.
Quoth MJ20: "Get ready for a [Golden State] punch in the gut." You waited, you knew it was coming, and it did. Tuesday the Knicks resume the unscripted portion of their season at home against the Celtics. Peace.