What Knicks Can Learn From Warriors Process

5 thoughts on the loss:

1. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen some of the NBA‘s best teams, some of the most entertaining in the game’s history just like the Warriors, come to The Garden and put on a show that has this basketball-obsessed city buzzing.

I vividly remember a game in 2006-07, when the Phoenix Suns, at the height of “Seven Seconds or Less,” on the court during pregame warmups and a fellow reporter leaned over to me in awe and said, “Can you imagine if this team played here in New York?”

We said the same about the Shaq & Kobe Lakers and we’re saying the same about this current Golden State squad.

You know what would be great? If we could ever get to a point where there is a team here that electrifies The Garden like these teams do (like those teams in the ’70s and ’90s). But what we have to understand is teams like this are not built overnight. And if there is anything to learn about the Warriors, it’s that this was something that took almost half a decade — and a lot of losing — to create.

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I talked about it on my pregame Knicks Fix segment on MSG Network. The Warriors were once a rudderless franchise mired in poor drafts and bad contracts. The core of their championship era was built on the pain of four straight years in the lottery.

And, for Generation Tank, take note that not a single pick they made in this run was in the top-5. Also, note that the highest pick they made over this four-year run wound up the least talented player of the bunch.

2008-09: (29-53) — Steph Curry (7th overall)
2009-10: (26-56) — Ekpe Udoh (6th overall) <— ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
2010-11: (36-46) — Klay Thompson (11th overall)
2011-12: (23-53) — Harrison Barnes (7th overall); Draymond Green (35th overall)

It was late in that 2011-12 season when a fed-up fan base loudly booed team owner Joe Lacob during Chris Mullin‘s jersey retirement ceremony. The team had just traded guard Monta Ellis, which meant it was making a full commitment to Curry — who had some injury issues — as their lead guard.

The following season, the Warriors finally made the playoffs. They won their first title two seasons later.

Let’s also point out that Golden State went through four coaches in a six-season span before their championship season.

There is no easy button.

2. There is an obvious answer to why the Knicks were not able to continue their strong first half (they led 64-63 at halftime) into the second half. It’s quite simple and has nothing to do with coaching adjustments or effort.

I’ll let Steve Kerr explain:

“Obviously we have a lot of talent. We have four All-Stars out there. It’s not like we’re making big adjustments.”

The Warriors are the NBA’s best third quarter team. They average 30.4 points per game in the third quarter, which is the highest in the league. They also shoot a league-best 52.9% from the field and 44.2% from three-point range in the third quarter.

And if you needed more evidence about their third-quarter dominance, look no further than this: they are a league-high +330 in third quarters this season. The second-highest +/- in third quarters this season is held by the Denver Nuggets. They are +164.

And if you feel like you saw that game before, you did. This time it was in Golden State on Jan. 23. The Knicks didn’t have Kristaps Porzingis in that game, either, by the way. They held a 60-58 lead at the half and went on to lose 123-112 after getting overwhelmed in the third quarter.

3. This time in the Young Point Guard Competition, it was Emmanuel Mudiay‘s game that had everyone talking. Mudiay got off to a great start by making his first four shots, including his first three-pointer as a Knick. He had missed his first 13 attempts.

Mudiay made 3-of-5 from downtown in the game and finished with 20 points and seven assists with two steals in 30:32. The best stat for the young guard was this: zero turnovers.

Most of his work was done in the first half, however, as he was just 1-for-6 in the second half. Jeff Hornacek talked about something I’ve been saying about Mudiay since he arrived: he needs to improve his conditioning.

The good news is, he’s aware of it and making an effort to do exactly that. Hornacek said he is spending extra time after practice to get in sprints. He fell out of the rotation in Denver and for a bulk of January and February, he collected a lot of DNPs, so it’s understandable that his game conditioning would fall off.

However, as I’ve said before, if Mudiay really wants to maximize his potential, he needs to dedicate himself to an offseason of serious work to get his body trimmer and lighter so he can really see what he can do with the natural physical gifts he has in size and athleticism.

4. Frank Ntilikina also has to embrace an offseason of work on his body. He had another nice game with 13 points and five rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting in 28:05 as he continues to play off the ball in a role that may define his future in the NBA.

Hornacek admitted before the game that Ntilikina, still only 19, has to improve his overall strength and it could take “a couple of years” to get there. Ntilikina has never been in a weight training program, so you would expect the Knicks to create an offseason plan for him that will involve a lot of lower body strength training and, in my opinion, a lot of agility work, too.

It will be interesting to see if he can use May and June to train and then come to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas to see how he looks and feels. Then he can go back in August and September to prepare for the season.

I’m not concerned about his desire to spend his offseason with his family in France. The Knicks can send a coach to work with him and set him up there to get in his work. When it comes to training, it’s not about where you’re doing it, it’s just that you’re doing it.

Frank Ntilikina talks about how he fell in love with basketball, his journey to the Knicks and his first season in the NBA.

5. Another item we had on the pregame Fix was about an anniversary for Curry at The Garden. It was almost five years to the day of his career-best performance on the game’s biggest stage.

Curry scored a career-high 54 points on Feb. 27, 2013 and was in video game mode as he made 11-of-13 from three-point range — I mean that’s just insane — in a wild game that had The Garden crowd roaring from one shot to the next.

But Curry didn’t steal the stage like we’ve seen in the past from other opposing stars who have had big performances in this building. Carmelo Anthony had 35 points and JR Smith buried six three-pointers to try to keep pace with Curry.

And the game came down to one big play, which happened to be defense. The score was tied at 105 with under 90 seconds to go and Curry rose up for another three. But Raymond Felton timed it perfectly and blocked the shot and the Knicks pulled out a 109-105 win.

Curry’s 54 points stands as the third-highest scoring performance by an opponent at the current Madison Square Garden. It trails only Kobe Bryant‘s 61 and Michael Jordan‘s Double-Nickel.

It’s one of seven games that an opponent went for 50 or more in the current Garden. But only the second time out of those seven that the Knicks won the game.

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