Heading into Thursday night’s showdown in San Francisco, the Warriors had beaten the Knicks 10 straight times when Steph Curry was on the court. Half of those times Golden State won by 20 or more points. Only once did the Knicks finish within 10.
These Dubs are not those Dubs, of course. But still, the Knicks walloped the Warriors on Thursday night behind a career-high scoring effort from RJ Barrett, another almost triple double from Julius Randle, a jam fest from Mitchell Robinson, and a healthy dose of mostly everyone else. Alec Burks was back after missing 12 straight games with an ankle injury. Frank Ntilikina and Austin Rivers were both out hurt.
The Knicks took control of the contest from the get-go, scoring 40 first quarter points and never relinquishing the lead. New York was up by double digits most of the night. Even Curry couldn’t complete a comeback. The victory puts the Knicks back at .500 with a record of 8-8. Under Tom Thibodeau, New York is no longer a pushover.
gonna be wild when thibs wins coach of the year— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) January 22, 2021
Having not played since Monday, the Knicks were well-rested. The Warriors, meanwhile, were playing on the second night of a back to back and finishing up a stretch of three games in four nights. It showed, as the Knicks quickly jumped out to an early lead behind three early triples from Reggie Bullock and some big boy basketball from Barrett.
Before long, the Knicks had gone on a 10-0 run and were up 18-8. Although with Curry and the Warriors, no lead ever feels safe. Late in the first, Kevin Knox entered the game and abruptly nailed a corner three, the shot that has become his calling card as he seeks to incrementally improve. Unfortunately, Knox wouldn’t score again for the remainder of the night.
As a team, the Knicks didn’t have any issues putting the ball in the basket. In fact, New York was able to withstand a Curry flurry late in the first.
Steph Curry doing Steph Curry stuff, burning up the Knicks with 11 points in two minutes late in the 1st quarter. pic.twitter.com/bn29EsLiYy— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) January 22, 2021
By the end of the opening quarter the Knicks were up 40-31, thanks in large part to 14 points from Barrett on 4-4 shooting. Oh, and Randle casually had 4 points and 5 assists.
The first half of the second quarter was filled with bench players from both squads, and everyone played like it was golf and the object of the game was to get the lowest score. After erupting for a combined 71 points in the first quarter, midway through the second the Knicks and Warriors had scored a total of just 14 points, and New York was clinging to its lead for dear life.
An Andrew Wiggins three made it 46-42, and those pesky pessimistic thoughts crept their way back into the brains of Knicks fans everywhere. Well, the ones who were still awake, at least. But Thibs sensed the bench needed a break and brought back his starters.
Amid the late second quarter battling between the two teams, Draymond Green inexplicably picked up his second technical foul of the night, meaning he was automatically ejected. In retrospect, it seems like Green was barking at his teammate, rookie James Wiseman, but the ref was sick of Draymond’s doo doo and tossed him.
Objectively bad ejection from official, running Draymond Green for briefly yelling at Wiseman, not the ref. Probably will be rescinded tomorrow. But this is also the risk of getting that early first T in any game. One ref error away from being banished. https://t.co/3mbeLZy0kL— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 22, 2021
A sign of good luck for the Knicks? Perhaps. At the half, New York was up 63-57. Their luck would continue early in the third, as the Warriors missed seven of their first eight shots while the Knicks steadily built back a roughly 10-point advantage behind a barrage of baskets by Robinson.
Mitch hadn’t scored in the first half, but in the third quarter he started acting like remora, which is the name for those fish that attach themselves to sharks, clean up and eat scraps. Robinson had 9 points and 4 boards in the 3rd, including three offensive rebounds. His relationship with his teammates is symbiotic.
Warriors can't stop RJ MITCH pic.twitter.com/Ny536rpUee— The Strickland (@TheStrickland) January 22, 2021
RJ doing a little of everything tonight pic.twitter.com/0pYKzHC8SQ— The Strickland (@TheStrickland) January 22, 2021
Heading into the final period, the Knicks were up 89-76, and although the contest wasn’t technically out of reach because of Curry’s presence, it just didn’t feel like a game the Knicks were going to blow. Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley wasted no time confirming that the Knicks weren’t going to blow it.
Curry reentered with just under 7 minutes left and the Warriors down 15, but New York continued to swarm him on defense, RJ, Mitch and others finished their feast, and the Knicks walked out of the Chase Arena having defeated Steph for the first time since 2014.
> Let’s hear it one more time for RJ Barrett, who scored a career-high 28 points on 10-17 shooting (59%) while adding 5 assists. Barrett is averaging 22 points a game on 51% from the field, plus 6 boards and almost 4 assists over the last five games. Pretty darn good.
> Robinson deserves another round of applause as well. He had 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. More of this, Mitch!
> Lest we forget Randle, who only shot 4-11 but hit all 7 of his free throws and finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists while only turning it over 2 times. Can you say All-Star?
> The Knicks were the away team, but they wore white jerseys. Does anyone enjoy away teams wearing white jerseys? Does no one care about tradition anymore!?
> The Knicks shot almost 46% from deep as a team, compared to 24% for the Dubs. When you shoot threes well, you win.
> Elfrid Payton makes just enough nice plays near the basket to make you wonder if maybe his shooting woes aren’t so bad. They are, however, so bad. Elf played great defense on Curry, and for the night totaled 15 points and 5 assists. But good golly, when he shoots from long range, it’s gross.
The Knicks used to lose more often than not, and frequently they would do so in freshly unique and embarrassing ways. But these, as GLoco described, are “def not the same old Knicks.”
New York plays the second of this back-to-back on Friday at 10 pm against the Kings in Sacramento. A victory would mark the first four-game winning streak of the season for the Knicks. Winning streaks are good! Let’s keep this one going for as long as possible.