P&T’er Zombor proved prophetic by making the headline quote above during the pregame. Golden State showed exactly how good they are by turning McGee into a vicious hell-kite dive-bombing the rim, thanks to a medley of alley-oops and set-ups for uncontested jams. With 17 points, it was the most McGee has scored in a game since 2013.
Really, this game was like older siblings playing keep away from the runt of the litter while blowing farts on his head when his back was turned, eliciting a mixture of terror, admiration, confusion and resignation from the inferior party. The Dubs were credited with assists on each of the first 33 baskets they scored—although a couple of those stretched the definition of assist further than Marv Albert was comfortable with (more on that later).
The Knicks, sans Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, showed good fight. They did have a ton of missed layups and their free throw shooting was atrocious (8-19), and the refs were not very good, but overall the game tolerably never got past the pitch of the second ‘Ugly’ in the Bubba Sparxxx song of the same name:
So it could have been worse. But make no mistake, your soul immediately splintered a little bit when it was Lance Thomas squaring up for an iso early in the game instead of Melo. The Knicks were never really in a position to make a respectable fake comeback, but were in a position to ride Ron Baker to a career-high 22 minutes during which the nation was rewarded with 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting and 3 assists.
Whatever, the Warriors are a historically profound squad, and sublime bullies all—and evidently get away with hall-of-fame level dirt as well. At certain points in this game they were doing extra passes specifically to get bench guys points. Their length on D was smothering, and New York had trouble finding passing lanes, as deflections and disruptive play led to 3 shot-clock violations, 7 steals and 9 blocks — two of which were Kevin Durant refutations of Kristaps Porzingis attempts.
While most of you were probably asleep in the second half, I stopped taking notes somewhere in the third quarter during a 14-0 Warriors run that ballooned the deficit to 25, freeing me up to go after a plate of bacon with both hands. In games like this, you take solace where you can.
Here are the notes I do have:
— Young Kristaps once again couldn’t get it going against Draymond Green, who crowded him even on 15-foot fadeaways. Porzingis played 35 minutes and started out looking pretty poised through the use of crossovers and lateral movement to free up shots at first, but his team never really looked to get him the ball for some reason, and as they fell behind he tried to force the issue when he did get his hands on it, to poor effect. He finished 4-of-13 (including a couple of airballs) for 8 points. You’d think you’d want your best player on the floor to get 25 shots up in this one, especially since the Dubs only double-teamed him a couple times and it’s not like he had to work that hard for position. So a little bit of a head-scratcher there. It was like the Warriors lured other guys into decent-enough looks, and the other guys kept taking them, even though none of them have been compared to mythical beasts.
— As you may have guessed from the above, the Knicks never figured out how to conduct themselves on offense, and accordingly couldn’t stay in a game where the Warriors’ stars didn’t shoot particularly well. Brandon Jennings had some success in transition but little anywhere else. They tried to run the offense through Joakim Noah early, to little result. Ron reminded us he really isn’t a point guard by struggling to complete passes, particularly in pick ‘n roll situations.
— Courtney Lee, meanwhile, looked like he’s maybe the best option as a third point guard on the current roster. Early on he comfortably did one of those CP3 snake dribbles off a pick, made great decisions off the bounce and out of PNRs, and had the most consistent success on post entry passes of any guard. The offense started running through him more late in the third quarter, and he did pretty well with 9 points and 2 assists and 0 turnovers for the half. Like Ron, he’d be exposed if he had to bring it up every time, but he has had a 2-1 Assist to TO ratio the last couple years —solid for a non-PG— so you could do worse (“People named Sasha for 100, Alex”) if you’re not going to bring Chasson Randle out here.
— Maurice Ndour (6 points including an acrobatic layup to close the night’s scoring) got a couple of stints off the bench, which would be a little weird to let him show off his impressive athleticism if you did intend to try and sneak him to Westchester to swap in Randle. This tells me it’s probably not Chasson’s time yet for whatever reason, even though we clearly need a third point guard.
— We may not have a third point guard, but we do have a RON. If you’re like me, you’ve been living the lyrics of Flock of Seagull’s homage to him, “I Ron”, on the daily:
Watching ball is nothing new
But never thought I’d meet a guard like you
Combo guard like you
With tawny hair and azure eyes
With those smarts that hypnotize me through
With Sasha I am through
And I Ron
I Ron so hard all day
I just Ron
I Ron while cheering teammates;
Why can’t he get no play?
Jeff Hornacek finally has relented to the musings of the chorus, and if nothing else you have to love Ron bringing four hard takes to the rack off the dribble and finishing all of them, including one over Durant. Yeah, he’s over-matched as a point guard, but ya can’t teach moxie, and this kid’s got it, I tells ya; his only miss was a confident 28-footer with the shot clock winding down.
— A defense can only hold its shape so long with all the different ways GSW puts pressure on you, but you have to keep those breakdowns away from the restricted area. Perimeter defenders were giving up penetration (as you would expect), but Kyle O’Quinn and Joakim Noah routinely left McGee to his own devices by offering unnecessary help on a drive or a cut. McGee first got on the board when O’Quinn helped out on Steph Curry even though KP had him under wraps, leading to an uncontested dunk. Even deep into the alley-oop parade, Noah once just wandered away from McGee with no immediate threat elsewhere, leading to another dunk. If Clyde was calling this game, he’d say this type of D will drive you to ‘blinking and drinking’.
— This is getting to be a little bit of a trend here, as Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler, and now McGee have put up their season-high Hollinger game scores in consecutive games against the Knicks. Could this be the dawn of new, smellier kind of defense known as FARTFOG (Friendly Alliance of the Retreating who Transform Fading Vets into Omniscient Gods)?
— Offensively, O’Quinn looked better than his stat line (5 points, 7 boards, 0 assists), but Noah (6 points, 10 boards, 1 assist) was once again horrific, going 3-of-9 on shots inside of two feet, including three missed tips and once missed uncontested putback.
— Willy Hernangomez was New York’s best big on both sides of the floor, going for 8 points, 2 assists and 10 rebounds—including a team-high 9 defensive boards. He showed off his sweet pivot and slick passing, impressing TNT analyst and HOFer Kevin McHale enough to make him audibly rethink the offensive approach he took in his career.
— Just like KP is redefining what it means to be half-a-yacht tall, and Ron is redefining three-point bench celebrations, could the Warriors be redefining what an assist is? There’s always been a degree of interpretation as to what constitutes an assist, and they definitely got a remarkable array of no-doubt assists tonight, but recording this as an assist seems like it might be a bit of a stretch right here:
This is a regular swing pass which doesn’t even really free up Klay Thompson; it’s just bad positioning and defense by Brandon Jennings. Then dude takes two dribbles and a couple steps to the rim. The cynical might say that the local official scorer was looking to keep the Warriors’ streak of assists to start the game alive (it was 25 after this play, but you can also rewind back to the 0:09 mark of the full vid to question whether the streak ever got that high). What say ye, P&T’ers? Are these assists, or hype to pump up the SportsCenter anchors and their bottomless lust for streaks which disappointingly involve no nudity whatsoever?
— A final note: Steve Kerr gave a touching speech pre-game to honor Craig Sager. Players around the league wore warmup shirts that looked like Sager-esque blazers, and both Kerr and Hornacek wore ties made out of the Sager’s suit from his recent ESPY speech. Nice tribute to one of the game’s nice guys; may he rest in peace.
The Knicks now head to always-difficult Denver to decide whether this will be a winning road trip or a losing one. Tune in Saturday, true believers!