There are many coaches out there who would love to have Steve Kerr’s problems.
The Golden State coach said before Monday night’s game against the Knicks that it’s not always easy to be a team that has been to the Finals three straight times, winning twice. It’s not that easy to be a team that has four All-Stars, two former MVPs and one defensive player of the year. It’s not always easy to keep a great team playing like a great team.
“It’s Year Four of trying to get back to the Finals,” Kerr said. “Two years ago, we were winning 73 games and it felt like our guys were sky-high. They knew they were doing something special and couldn’t wait to get on the floor. It’s different now. It’s just human nature.”
The bottom line is that the Warriors don’t get as pumped up for every game as they used to. That goes a long way toward explaining why it took them two whole quarters before they unleashed their firepower to secure a 125-111 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Trailing by a point at the half, the Warriors opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run that included three-pointers by All-Stars Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Golden State outscored the Knicks 39-18 in the quarter.
Thompson had 26 points and shot 9-for-13. Kevin Durant had 22 points and nine rebounds and Curry added 21 points. “It’s a 48-minute game,” Curry said. “We wear teams down. We come out of the halftime with some juice and energy. It’s winning time. Hopefully it continues.”
The Warriors (47-14) are battling the Rockets (47-13) for the best record in the league. The Knicks (24-38) have lost 10 of their last 11.
“They’re a tough team the way they play,” Jeff Hornacek said. “They are a great team. The first half, we moved the ball well, but in the third quarter, it was like, ‘How can I score?’ ”
Emmanuel Mudiay had 20 points, seven assists and no turnovers in 31 minutes in his best game as a Knick. He scored 14 points in the Knicks’ 39-point first quarter, making his first five shots. “He was hot,” Hornacek said. “He hadn’t made a three since he had been here and he made three or four in the first half. I think a lot of it is his conditioning is getting better.”
Trey Burke had 18 points and five assists in 25 minutes off the bench, shooting 8-for-15. Frank Ntilikina added 13 points in 28 minutes, his highest point total since Dec. 12, and shot 6-for-12. Mudiay, Burke and Ntilikina totaled only two turnovers in 84 minutes.
Kyle O’Quinn and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 14 points each, but Hardaway struggled against Durant, shooting 4-for-11. “It’s tough. They are so long and athletic,” he said. “Anyone on their team can switch. It was tough getting around them. That comes from playing basketball together for a long period of time and trusting one another.”
Since the All-Star break, Hornacek has committed to playing his younger players. Early on, that looked promising, but it wasn’t enough to withstand the Warriors’ third-quarter onslaught.
Said Kerr: “Obviously, we have a lot of talent. We have four All-Stars out there. It wasn’t like we had to make a big adjustment.”