Fans Return to the Garden, but Knicks Can’t Reward Them With a Win

For the first time in nearly a year the fans returned to Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. Even though there were only 2,000 of them allowed through the door, the vocal contingent made sure they were heard. Booing Golden State during the starting lineups. Chanting “MVP-MVP” for Julius Randle. And of course heckling the officials. It was clear they were thrilled to return to the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”

Randle provided another outstanding performance on the night he was annointed an NBA All-Star. Unfortunately, the Knick’s faithful went home disappointed as Golden State pulled away late for a 114-106 victory. New York (15-17) missed a second opportunity to get to .500 in the last week. The Warriors (17-15) avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season.

“Obviously we didn’t play well,’’ Knicks coach TomThibodeau said. “They played really well. [Curry’s] shooting sets up a lot of their offense and Draymond is terrific in terms of making decisions so it stretches you out pretty good.’’

Golden State came out of the gate looking like a team anxious to avenge a January home loss to the Knicks. The Warriors knocked down four three-pointers to fashion a 23-14 lead. Back to back treys by Randle and RJ Barrett, along with a Randle transition bucket brought the Knicks within 23-22. However, three-pointers by Kent Bazemore and Steph Curry secured a 36-31 advantage for the Warriors after the first 12 minutes.

The Knicks bench had been the catalyst of their successful since the acquisition of Derrick Rose but have struggled the last two games. Rose had shot just 2-for-18 in New York’s last two outings. In the second quarter though he was feeling it. Rose connected on his first four shots including a pair of three-pointers. He finished with 12 points and six assists in the quarter, one of them resulting in a thunderous slam from Nerlens Noel. When Rose sunk a floater of the glass with 3:28 left in the half, New York had their biggest lead at 53-48.

The Knicks led 55-50 when Golden State put together a 5-0 spurt sparked by a Curry trey to tie the game at 55. New York responded by tallying the last four points of the half to lead 59-55 at the break.

The halftime deficit for Golden State did not last long. The Warriors opened the third quarter with an 10-0 run to overtake the Knicks 65-59. Curry connected on a deep bomb from beyond the arc and a short baseline jumper to spark the rally. New York then lost their cool as Thibodeau and Randle both received technical fouls with Curry making the free throws. Meanwhile the Knicks missed 8 of their first 9 field goal attempts.

The adjustment made by Golden State coach Steve Kerr in the second half was the same one most teams make against the Knicks when they fall behind. Back away from the shooters, dare them to launch from the perimeter, and clog the painted area. The strategy proved successful once again as the Warriors extended the lead to 13 as the Knicks offense remained inept. With just over three minutes to go in the stanza an Alec Burks trey got the Knicks within eight. Back to back buckets by rookie James Wiseman, both on gorgeous passes from Draymond Green jacked the margin back up to 86-74. The Warriors led 94-85 heading to the fourth.

Both coaches went with their second units to begin the final segment. The Knicks still found it difficult to score and turnovers thwarted their comeback effort. Even still, a Rose basket in the lane pulled New York within 95-89 with 8:01 left. A three-pointer from Obi Toppin lowered the deficit to 95-92 and the Knicks had momentum.

The contest came down to the final ticks on the clock. Randle tied things up at 97 all, but yet another deep three-pointer from Curry gave the Warriors a 3-point edge with just over three minutes remaining. Curry was the difference down the stretch as he scored on a traditional three-point play with 1:22 to go, hit the key free throws and and dished to Kelly Oubre for a game-clinching dunk as the Warriors held on.

Curry had another huge game in the Garden with 37 points, six assists and six rebounds. Oubre added 19 points. Andrew Wiggins contributed 16 and Wiseman 14.

Randle finished with 25 points, 10 boards and seven assists for New York and was ejected after his second technical late in the game. Elfrid Payton chipped in 20 points. Rose was the only other Knick on double-digits with 16.

The Knicks were frustrated by the officiating the entire night, but Thibodeau refused to use that as an excuse.

“Sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don’t,’’ Thibodeau said. “It just seemed like there was a lot of contact on our drives and we didn’t get the calls. We have to deal with that, yeah.’’

New York will atempt to bounce back Thursday night at home against Sacramento.

(Wendell Cruz/Pool Photo via AP)

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