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Three takeaways as reinforced Warriors avoid disaster in nervy win over Knicks

© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports


Tuesday was a night of returns. Three vital Warriors returned to the lineup as 2,000 fans returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time since the NBA season was put on pause last year. Those fans witnessed the no-longer-terrible Knicks fall to the Warriors 114-106, bolstered by a Stephen Curry who seems unable to have a bad game at MSG.

Curry is still Curry

It was a weird few games for Stephen Curry. His scorching hot tear went from a boil to a simmer starting with an 8-for-25 shooting night against the Miami Heat. Another inefficient night followed against Orlando Magic in an odd loss, and then he was scratched immediately before tip-off back home in Charlotte against the Hornets.

Tuesday night served as an end to that weirdness, as he thrived once again in Madison Square Garden. It’s the place where he first cracked the 50-point barrier back in 2013, which, incidentally, is still the last time the Warriors have lost against the Knicks there.

Curry wasn’t exceedingly efficient on the whole, but he was on threes, where he was 7-of-14 after going 6-for-16 and 5-for-20 against the Magic and Heat, respectively. He finished with 37 points (9-of-22, 12-of-12 on free throws), 6 rebounds, 6 assists and a pair of steals.

The Knicks, defined by that sort of Tom Thibodeau defense that doesn’t allow you much space to work with, consistently hurried Curry. That was part of the reason that the Warriors failed to pull away. But when it mattered, Curry was there, hitting a crucial three when the game was knotted at 97, and the Warriors had scored just five fourth-quarter points.

And at 102-100, Curry slipped through the lane for the old and-one to put the Warriors up by five with less than a minute and a half remaining. In a brutal shooting fourth quarter for both teams, that was the difference.

Wiseman has his moments, while Looney stabilizes

Having centers against a Knicks team led by Julius Randle turned out to be important. Wiseman still looked every bit like a rookie, but his length alone was useful on the defensive end, and he provided that lob scoring option that has been sorely missed. His night, of 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with 2 rebounds, was effectively a toe wading back into the NBA waters, and while not exceedingly efficient, it provided an edge.

And Looney was classically invaluable, despite a predictably tepid game on the stat sheet. His defensive presence and work as a facilitator provided the paint-clogging length and reliability that this team has sorely missed. He finished with 4 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a block, with the Warriors’ highest plus-minus at +18.

All of that took muck of the burden off Draymond Green, who, despite not looking to score as much as he should (sound familiar?) was dynamic as a facilitator and defensive mogul, finishing with 7 points, 9 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks with just 3 turnovers. Oh, and Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins both had effective, if not underwhelming games, combining for 35 points, with Oubre’s three blocks and 8 rebounds highlighting his effort.

What on earth was that fourth quarter? And the Warriors’ continued streak in New York

Before last season, the Warriors had won 11-straight games against the Knicks. This win for the Warriors broke a two-game duck against a Knicks team that’s probably better than they’ve ever been since the Carmelo Anthony years. The last time the Knicks beat the Warriors at home? February 27, 2013. That streak continues.

That continues when you’re just fundamentally unable to score in the fourth quarter. With 7:31 left in the fourth, there were five total points scored. The Warriors 0-for-7 and the Knicks were 1-for-6.

By the end of that putrid fourth quarter, both teams combined for a whopping 41 points, mostly off end-of-game free throws. It was ugly, but for a Warriors team that has so often failed to close fourth quarters it was important. They had let the lead slip, but thanks to Curry’s key three-point plays, they recovered and for once, closed.

They avoided a first potential three-game losing streak of the year, outscoring the Knicks 21-20 in that fourth and moving to 17-15.

 

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