Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson entered Sunday’s game mired in shooting slumps. It’s not that they’re officially of those slumps now, but both made enough shots against the Knicks to lift the Warriors to a 112-105 victory Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Curry had 31 points and Thompson 29, and between them the two went 9-for-22 from beyond the arc. We’ve seen those two combine to shoot much better than that over the years, but against the Knicks that was a marked improvement over what each had been doing. And it was good enough against the Knicks, a non-playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Enough said.
Curry had gone 4-for-31 from 3-point range (12.9 percent) over the past three games and Thompson had gone 7-for-33 from beyond the arc (21.2 percent). On Sunday, Curry made 5-for-13 from 3-point range and Thompson 4-for-9 from deep.
The Warriors won their first game since Kevin Durant was injured Tuesday against the Washington Wizards. Golden State finished off the Knicks with solid offensive execution down the stretch and some smothering defense.
There have been plenty of suggestions that the Warriors need to put the ball into Curry’s hands more, particularly late in close games. But on Sunday, it was the Warriors’ passing game that got them a couple of big buckets — and layups, to boot.
The Warriors got back-to-back layups around the three-minute mark, one by McCaw and one by Thompson. Both came off cuts, with Draymond Green assisting on one and Andre Iguodala the other.
After another sketchy half, Curry seemed to come out in the third quarter and want to make a point — or several of them. He looked more aggressive, pushed the tempo, probed more and just put more pressure on the Knicks’ defense. The result was one of those quarters Curry hasn’t had in a while: 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Curry’s flurry helped get the Warriors an 84-76 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Even with Curry’s uptick, it was obvious to see: The Warriors weren’t the Warriors anymore. Without Durant, they looked like a different team. That would be OK if they turned into, say, last year’s team, the one that won 73 games.
But they don’t have the same players anymore. Gone are Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Mo Speights, Leandro Barbosa and Festus Ezeli. All of those players came through plenty of times last season, helping the team to its historic regular season.
This year the top three players have been figuring out how to divvy up shots, and now one of them is down with an injury. The explosiveness off the bench isn’t there. They’re a lot smaller up front than they were a year ago. Those are just a few of the differences.
The Knicks took a 50-49 lead into halftime, and it was largely because Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West weren’t effective against New York’s bench.
The Warriors’ first unit did a solid job of taking control of the game from the start, opening up a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter. But when the substitutes started coming in, the Knicks began chipping away and eventually took a three-point lead by midway through the second quarter. The Warriors scored just two points in through the first six minutes of the second period.
Hard as it is to believe, the Knicks went the entire first quarter, and three-plus minutes of the second, without an assist. In the NBA, you almost have to try to do that. Or try not to, as the case may be. Still, despite that troubling start, New York would be back in things soon enough.
Curry came into Sunday’s game mired in an awful shooting slump, going 4-for-31 from beyond the arc on the first three games of the trip: at Philly, at Washington and at Chicago. He didn’t do a whole lot in the first half to come out of it, hitting just 2-for-8 from 3-point range, though in fairness, his 70-footer at the halftime buzzer almost went down, drawing iron before caroming off.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr changed things up a bit, replacing Patrick McCaw in the starting lineup with newly acquired Matt Barnes. But Kerr had enough faith in McCaw to have him on the floor as the Warriors put the game away down the stretch.
The Warriors conclude their five-game road trip on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.