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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Warriors- 12/14/21

Can New York’s defense stop Steph from breaking Ray Allen’s record?

Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Thus David triumphed over Goliath with a sling and a stone; he hit the Philistine and killed him, though he had no sword in his hand.
1 Samuel Ch. 17, V. 50

Biblical stories can sometimes provide solace and encouragement. You know the one about David and Goliath: a neophyte shepherd defeats a mighty Philistine. The story assures us that the improbable occasionally occurs. Remember that as we consider the game before us.

GOLIATH: The Golden State Warriors (22-5) are jockeying with the Phoenix Suns for first place in the Western Conference. The Goldenrods rank first in defense and fourth in offense. Are they unbeatable? Almost. On Saturday, the 76ers defeated them 102-93 but needed a 32-20 fourth quarter and Joel Embiid heroics to do so.

The Warriors will be playing the second of back-to-back road games and won yesterday in Indiana, 102-100. Their leader, Stephen Curry, is gunning for the all-time three-point record, wants to achieve his triumph at the Garden, and odds are he will.

DAVID: The New York Knicks (12-15) lost 112-97 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. The club is missing three players on health and safety protocols (RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Quentin Grimes). One big off-season signing, Kemba Walker, is glued to the bench, and another, Evan Fournier, could be relegated to the reserves soon. Last year’s All-NBA man and All-Star Julius Randle is now maddeningly inconsistent. Center Mitchell Robinson trots the floor and seems destined to be traded. And with the Bucks clearly in command, New York’s coach, Tom Thibodeau, refused to give more than one live-game practice minute to rookie Miles McBride, or play Jericho Sims at all.

But, hey…remember that time David whupped Goliath’s ass? Tip-off’s at 7:30 PM, philistines.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Stephen Curry is two three-pointers shy of breaking Ray Allen’s record (2,973). The impish sharpshooter should meet little resistance from the Knicks defense, currently twenty-fifth in the league.

Steph’s attempting 13.4 three-pointers per game and making 5.4 for 40%. This season, he has averaged 27.1 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.6 rebounds. Not only does he have a 116.9 offensive rating, his defensive rating is 100.5, which is fourth in the league. Steph ranks in the top three for points per game, 3-pt field goals (and attempts), defensive win shares, offensive plus/minus, free throw percentage—and those are just the categories in which he ranks top three. I’ll spare you the rest.

If there’s good news, it’s that New York’s current starting point guard Alec Burks is expected to return tonight (mazel tov) and plane difficulties kept the Warriors on the tarmac until this morning.

The Warriors’ alpha dog is Draymond Green, whose 97.2 defensive rating leads the league. He’s averaging eight points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists on his quest to win a second Defensive Player of the Year award. He’s a menace anywhere on the floor and ranks in the top 100 percentile for passing. In 12 games versus Randle, Draymond has averaged 12 points, nine rebounds, and 8.2 assists. Conversely, Julius averaged 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in those games.

SF Andrew Wiggins has enjoyed a resurgence in sunny California. He’s averaged 18.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists this season. In his opposition...ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kevin Knox. Or maybe Immanuel Quickley? Man, I hate COVID.

SG Jordan Poole is averaging 18.2 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.2 rebounds, 45% from the field, 35% from three. He’s a talented but inconsistent athlete who can drive the lane or shoot from outside. Fournier will draw the assignment. If Evan plays another stinker, I’m sure Thibs is aware that he can be traded as of December 15.

C Kevon Looney has grabbed 6.4 boards and 5.6 points per game this season. He has a stout 98.5 defensive rating. Against him, Nerlens Noel will hobble around on a braced bad knee. Side note: someone suggested that Noel might be on the trade block. After watching him limp up and down the court, I doubt he’d pass the other team’s physical.

PREDICTIONS

Crystal ball says…a basketball game will be played on Tuesday unless COVID intervenes. Steph Curry will break Ray Allen’s record. Thibs will consume 5,000 mg of TUMS. As for the outcome…it feels like a big ol’ L. But, stranger things have occurred, right Dave?

Madison Square Garden. 7:30 PM. Sling your stones, Knicks!