The Warriors arrived in New York around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, having flown late Friday night from Atlanta. No doubt they were dragging, but the energy of the Big Apple has a way of generating effervescence.
Not this time. Not for the Warriors on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Warriors labored through 48 minutes and for their uninspired efforts received a 106-92 win over the profoundly incompetent Knicks. This was, for the Warriors (40-9), about as forgettable as a victory could be.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors hold off Carmelo-less Knicks in NYC]
So it was that they walked with a measure of shame afterward.
“Our guys (in the locker room) are not celebrating the victory tight now," coach Steve Kerr said. "They don’t feel good about the way they played."
How ugly was it? Klay Thompson missed 17 of his 22 shots, and some of the misses missed everything. Stephen Curry had three turnovers and zero assists and one of his 3-point attempts clanged off the side of the backboard.
There's more. The Warriors controlled the game despite themselves, leading by as much as 26 – only to allow an anonymous group of Knicks, without star forward Carmelo Anthony, to go on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter that put them within five (95-90, with 4:20 to play).
Kerr had hoped to rest his starters, but there he was, calling them back to action. They delivered, partly because they were intent on sparing themselves the embarrassment of losing to a team hurtling toward the lottery.
The Knicks, after all, have one of the barest talent cupboards in the NBA.
“That was tough to watch," Kerr said. "We were horrible.
"The last three minutes we decided to guard, we shut them down and avoided disaster. I will chalk this up to mental fatigue. Four (games) in five nights and going across the country, we were running out of energy with our brains and our hearts. They really outplayed us.”
No, the Knicks (10-41) didn't outplay the Warriors – but there were times when it looked as if they were. So bad were the Warriors in the fourth quarter, that New York could shoot 31.8 percent and get back into the game.
That's because the Warriors, who went scoreless for six minutes and 27 seconds, were shooting 26.3 percent.
“We hold ourselves to high standards and high expectations, so we are kind of disappointed with the way we played, especially with a 20-point lead," Curry said. "It's not taking anything away from the Knicks; they did a lot to get back in the game and made shots and kept their foot on the gas pedal, even though we were winning.
"We feel that we could play better. We were a little fatigued and it showed, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for how we executed on both ends of the floor."
This was a win for talent over heart. The Knicks played harder but simply weren't good enough overcome a sleepwalking bunch of Warriors.
Green found his missing 3-point shot. He had missed 21 of his last 26 entering the game before nailing 3 of 5 against the Knicks.
David Lee made an impact on offense in his 22 minutes off the bench, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. It is his first double-double of the season.
With the Knicks getting back into the game in the fourth quarter, Stephen Curry returned to finish them off, scoring 8 points in the final three minutes.
Inasmuch as the Warriors held a 95-74 lead with 10:31 to play, there should not have been a need for Curry or any other starter to return to the game.
Thompson never found his shot or his rhythm in one of his least impressive games of the season: 5-of-22 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and two turnovers.
Curry played 31 minutes, and did not ring up an assist. He had gone without an assist in three previous games, none of which he played more than 11 minutes.
There aren't many places for an NBA team to stroll in and snooze through a victory. New York nowadays is one of them, which is why the Warriors picked up a win despite playing well beneath their standard. After losing their showdown with the Hawks in Atlanta and arriving in the wee hours, the Warriors needed a soft spot to land. The Knicks, soft as prescription bottle cotton, were accommodating.