Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Durant destroyed the Knicks
Before the showdown between the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors, there was a billboard perfectly placed near Madison Square Garden. The message on the billboard was loud and clear, “Can you make NY sports great again?” Unsurprisingly, a drawing of Kevin Durant and Kristaps Porzingis posing next to the Larry O’Brien championship trophy was under the message. Since rumors came out about Durant possibly leaving the Bay Area to come to the Big Apple next season, New York City has been in full recruit mode.
New York was pulling out all the stops. The Knicks brass even got Ashanti to sing the national anthem and perform because she was one of Durant’s favorite artists. All the effort the Knicks were putting in to recruit Durant didn’t impress the Golden State swingman. Before the game, Durant stated he was unimpressed with New York’s attempts to entice him to join the Knicks next season. Once the fourth quarter rolled around, Durant showed the Garden crowd how unimpressed he was.
Durant dropped 25 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Warriors to a 128-100 beatdown of the Knicks. Several times throughout the game, Durant received a pleasant ovation from the Garden faithful. Unfortunately, Durant repaid their love with a plethora of buckets. In addition to handing the Knicks their fifth straight loss on a silver platter. Overall, Durant finished with 41 points, 9 rebounds.
Player and team stats
Stephen Curry also played a role in the Durant show. He contributed with 29 points. Draymond Green also assisted in the onslaught on the Knicks with 18 points. Klay Thompson has been struggling to shoot the rock this season, and his struggles continue. He only scored 12 points on 6-of-18 shooting. As a team, Golden State shot 59% (51-87) and 48.5% from deep (16-33).
Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to be the Knicks number one scoring option. He led the team with 24 points. Frank Ntilikina had one of the best performances in his young NBA career. He finished with 17 points. Trey Burke finally seems to be breaking out of his shooting slump scoring 15 points.
New York showed fight in the first half
Despite the lopsided scoreline, New York was competitive through most of the game. What made the difference was Golden State has an abundance of weapons with championship pedigree while New York has youth and inexperience. Golden State treated New York like children. Durant and crew made the New York fans and team believe they had a chance early. Then at the end, Golden State poured on the pressure to teach the New York kids that they have a long way to go to reach their level.
New York was taken to school by the defending champs, but there were several key moments where the Knicks showed fight. The first moment came after Curry went on an 11-0 run to give Golden State an early seven-point lead. New York could have easily folded then, but the players fought their way back to tie the game at the end of the first. In the following quarter, it was more of the same.
Golden State’s defense had the Knicks fumbling the ball more than Tiki Barber early in his career. New York had several turnovers which Golden State converted to easy baskets. Midway through the second, Durant scored 8 points in a 14-3 Golden State run to push their lead to 13. Again, the Knicks didn’t fold. Led by Ntilikina and Hardaway Jr., the Knicks closed the gap to tie the game at halftime. New York carried their momentum to the second half and finally retook the lead.
Golden State stopped the Knicks momentum in the third
Early in the third, both teams exchanged baskets until Hardaway Jr. emerged. With 7:20 left, Hardaway Jr. drove and finished with a layup to give the Knicks a 3-point lead. On the following possession, Ntilikina forced Curry into a jump ball. Ntilikina didn’t win the tip, but Hardaway Jr. stole the ball and slammed it home to give the Knicks a 5-point cushion. Later, Robinson capped off the 6-0 run with a dunk from a nice feed from Vonleh. For a while, the Knicks were moving and grooving, but the champion Warriors put a stop to that.
Hardaway Jr. nailed a three to put the Knicks up by ten, but baskets by Kevon Looney and a three from Jonas Jerebko quickly cut the Knicks lead in half. Curry closed the third with two free throws to bring the Warriors within three. In the fourth, the fat lady sang for the Knicks as Durant showcased why he’s one of the top three players in the NBA today.
Ntilikina shined against the defending champs
There’s rarely a positive in a blowout loss, but the performance of Ntilikina is very encouraging. Strong teams usually test a young player’s mettle, and Ntilikina passed with flying colors. Everyone knows what Ntilikina can do on defense, but offensively, Ntilikina’s bag is becoming heavier.
One of Ntilikina’s most impressive offensive moves came early in the third against another premier defender in Thompson. Ntilikina crossed Thompson, then drove left. He stopped on a dime, did a step-back, and pump-faked to get Thompson in the air. Thompson bit on the fake, then he went under to shoot an uncontested jumper. Last season, Ntilikina would have passed the ball instead of creating his shot.
Next up on New York’s radar is the city rival Brooklyn Nets on Monday. For the Knicks to win, the players have to put forth a better defensive effort than they did against Golden State.