People were ready to pounce if the New York Knicks came into Oracle and won handily, with Tyson Chandler blocking 8 shots like DeAndre Jordan on Christmas evening. Fans would ridicule Kwame Brown’s meager stat line (because, almost without exception, his line is never going to be great). Writers would jab at the Warriors’ inability to pull off the big moves required of established NBA franchises such as the Knicks.
In the end, neither Chandler nor Brown had a lot to do with the Warriors’ 92-78 win over the Knicks. A win that was almost unfathomable, considering Golden State scored 37 points in a first half that looked like the worst possible result of a long lockout followed by an abbreviated training camp and preseason.
After three games — three home games, at that — it’s way too early to know if the Warriors can continue playing the way they have against the Bulls and Knicks. It’s not too early to assert that the Warriors made some major changes to their style of play, without really changing their roster all that much (except for a certain trade that we’ll get to a little later).
“This is going to be strange to hear, but we are a defensive team,” said Mark Jackson during the postgame presser. He then chuckled, as if laughing off the Warriors’ long, soft history, and remarked, “It’s a shocker.”
During the first half I wondered: are Warriors fans willing to watch games that might look ugly for quarters at a time, with the tradeoff of an extremely higher chance at victory? Because this is different than the “great timeout” style of run-and-gun, fall-apart-in-the-4th-quarter hoops Oracle patrons have grown accustomed to for so, so long.
With results like these, Warriors fans should be used to and happy with this new style of play pretty soon … like their next game on Saturday.
The Knicks came into this game without a point guard, just guys who could dribble twice and hand it to Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony at the elbow and hope something good would happen. It didn’t, as two of the best scorers in the league finished 8-for-27 with 27 points between them. Neither player really looked in sync all night, especially Anthony. But it wasn’t just that those two guys were lethargic or ice cold. So far the Warriors aren’t content floating lazily into supposed passing lanes, hoping for an early respite from their defensive duties. And it doesn’t look like they needed Chandler to become the defensive team Jackson says they are.
— I always like Rush’s game in college because it was so smooth, so effortless, so (seemingly) NBA-readymade. But he didn’t show that in Indiana, and he definitely wasn’t blocking 2 shots per game like he has so far with the Warriors.
— Rush’s line: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7-for-13 from the field, 2-for-3 on threes. Lou Amundson won’t score his 19th point of the season until the middle of February.
— One of the things that drove me absolutely guano about the Warriors in recent years: all the soft fouls they committed that led to countless 3-point plays. The Warriors are actually fouling guys in a hard, almost violent manner so far.
— Andris Biedrins and Kwame Brown combined for 17 rebounds in under 26 combined minutes.
— Ish Smith dribbled and shot a little more than Jackson was probably comfortable with on Wednesday night, but he made some plays and held down the ship without Stephen Curry (that’s right, he didn’t play and they beat the Knicks by 14 … this season keeps getting weirder and weirder).
— Dominic McGuire was on the floor most of the time during the Warriors’ second half run, where they turned a 6-point halftime deficit into a shockingly decisive win.
— It all begs the question: who’s the main person behind the trade for Rush and the additions of Smith and McGuire … Larry Riley or Bob Myers?
— Monta Ellis overcame a pretty awful first three quarters with a couple threes and 12 points in the fourth quarter. But unlike last year, it seemed like the Warriors were a cohesive unit at the end of Wednesday’s game, not four guys following Monta’s lead.
— Again, way too early — but the Warriors seem to have a lot more complementary roster this year. Curry’s playmaking followed by Smith’s speed. David Lee’s perimeter offense and passing along with Ekpe Udoh’s excellent team defense. Biedrins and Brown grabbing rebounds, picking up fouls and staying out of the way. And Dorell Wright, Ellis, Rush and McGuire (okay, and Klay Thompson, too) on the twos and threes.
— Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler made cameo appearances; if they can give the Warriors anything, all the sudden this looks like a semi-deep team. A team without a superstar, but if they can keep teams like the Mike D’Antoni Knicks under 80 then they’ll be in a lot more games than most people figured. And as any fan of the 49ers knows, defense doesn’t go away when you play on the road.
— The Knicks (who better not be counting on Baron Davis’ return from injury to fix their PG issues, since it isn’t 2007 anymore) were the road team on Wednesday, but they’ve been off for two days while the Warriors were on their third game in four nights. And the Warriors looked stronger, faster and more active throughout the entire second half. Lots of good signs tonight, we’ll see if they can keep this up.