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Knicks Fall Short at the Garden

The Knicks gave them a good fight, but Curry and the Warriors were too much to handle. (Matthew Addie:flickr)

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There was a palpable pregame buzz at Madison Square Garden when the defending champion Golden State Warriors came to New York City to play the Knicks. Coming off an unconvincing win over the lowly 76ers the night before, hopeful Knicks fans thought maybe, just maybe, Golden State were vulnerable. The Knicks were struggling, having just broken a four game losing streak two nights earlier, but this was Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, where anything was possible, right? After all, the worst loss the ’96 Bulls took in their illustrious run to 72 wins was at The Garden to the Knicks by a score of 104-72. With the ’16 Warriors chasing that very Bulls record of 72-10, it really seemed like the stars were aligned for the Knicks to pull the upset over the Warriors.

Spoiler: they didn’t.

In the first quarter, It looked like the Knicks had a real shot at the upset. It was clear Curry wasn’t at his best; he started one of six from the field and missed all three of his three-point attempts in the opening twelve minutes. While both teams endured a very sloppy opening quarter, (the teams combined to miss their first nine shots) the Knicks looked the better of the two teams as they held Steph Curry and co. to a season-low eighteen first quarter points.

In the second, Curry continued to struggle but his teammates picked up the slack as the Warriors made 13 of their 16 shots in the second quarter to lead by six at half. Yet, when Derrick Williams sank a three at the halftime buzzer, the Garden erupted. It was clear that Knick fans wanted to believe their team had a chance even though, rationally, most knew it was going to take nothing short of a miracle.

Knicks color commentator Walt Frazier made a pregame comment that the Warriors were so good primarily because of their ability to go on hot shooting streaks that thoroughly demoralize their opponents. His commentary was nothing short of prophetic as the Warriors went on one of those patented runs in the third quarter, opening up the second half on an 8-0 run and never looking back. By the middle of the fourth quarter, the Garden was almost one-quarter empty, and the majority of fans who remained at the final buzzer were fans wearing the gold and black of the Warriors, Knicks fans having silently left the arena over the past twelve minutes.

I’ve sat in the upper deck at many New York sporting events, and regardless of the score, there were always the die-hard fans screaming “the game’s not over yet!” or “where you going?” at the fans who wished to depart before the score went final. I expected to hear the same at the Garden late Sunday night, yet I heard nothing. Fans left their seats throughout the fourth quarter and nobody said a word. In fact, the only upper deck noise I heard came from Golden State fans who erupted with every shot their team made. It was like New Yorkers were getting beaten at their own game. It was unsettling.

Rookie Kristaps Porzingis was perfectly frank with the media in his post game interview. “I need to be better defensively” he said after Golden State’s Draymond Green, whom he guarded for the majority of the night, recorded a triple double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. And even though Steph Curry was held to 13 points on 5-7 shooting, Klay Thompson overwhelmed the Knicks defense by pouring in a game-high 34 points on 14-18 shooting.

Even the most optimistic Knicks fan knew that New York didn’t have a shot against this Golden State team; the Warriors are too athletic, too versatile, and have too much chemistry for a Knick team that is certainly improved from last year, yet still profoundly mediocre. Nonetheless, New York fans desperately needed some optimism during a year that has been a roller-coaster ride of emotions. As much of a pleasant surprise Porzingis has been, the rest of the team (namely Jose Calderon and Arron Afflalo) have been just as disappointing. Watching this Warriors team run riot over the Knicks stung especially harshly for New York fans because the Warriors are exactly the type of team that would be so beloved in New York- they’re entertaining, marketable, and just plain good…basically, they’re are everything that the Knicks aren’t.