Full Squad Preview: Curry leads returning Warriors against tough Knicks
James Wiseman, Kevon Looney expected back
When Golden State Warriors star, Stephen Curry scored a new career-high (62 points) earlier this season, it supplanted a previous best from about eight years ago. On that night - February 27th, 2013 - Curry exploded for 54 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in a game that many point to as the moment Curry “truly arrived” on the global NBA stage.
It’s another big night tonight in the NBA, with nine games on the docket!
Curry is older, stronger, and better, but finds himself once again at the tip of a Warriors spear that may not be as intimidating as it once was. Though the lovable underdogs aren’t necessarily reeling, Golden State is seeking answers after squandering a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead at Orlando on Friday, and then subsequently blowing a five-point advantage in the final minute in a painful 102-100 loss at Charlotte on Saturday.
But thankfully, Golden State appears poised to get some help back tonight. Curry, who missed the last game with some sort of non-Covid illness, is all good for this game, and practiced fully yesterday. On a bigger scale, the frontcourt tandem of James Wiseman (wrist) and Kevon Looney (ankle) seem to be on the brink of returning to action.
Yesterday, coach Steve Kerr confirmed that both have been through practice but stopped short of pushing their status beyond the currently declared “questionable” designation:
They both practiced fully. We’ll see how they respond tomorrow before we make a declaration. The hope is that they’ll play tomorrow, but we won’t know till tomorrow morning.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (16-15) at New York Knicks (15-16)
WHEN: Tuesday February 23, 2021 // 4:30 pm PST
Blog Buddy: The Strickland
Getting the full squad back means re-shuffling the rotation
As much as I’ve enjoyed watching this retro version of Warriors small ball, the return of the top of Golden State’s frontcourt rotation bodes well for a team that has looked like it was scrambling for answers and stability. With Looney, the Warriors will get their stability. Despite relatively pedestrian box score impacts, Looney’s reliability and heady play have cemented his spot high in the Warriors’ rotation.
That the Warriors have survived this two-week window without a center other than the 6’6” Draymond Green is a testament to how flexible and skilled the rest of the roster is. Kerr indicated yesterday that if Looney is fully cleared, he will “probably” return to his starting role - a decision I agree with, and one that will cause a chain reaction of bumps down the depth chart.
Kerr went on to say that there would need to be some “discussions” with some of the players that filled the void over the past two weeks, and it looks like the foremost victim will be backup center, Eric Pashcall.
“We can’t play 12 guys, so I’m going to have to make some moves.” Here’s the rest of that quote from Kerr, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic:
“In order for us to really help Eric develop and for his career to blossom, he needs to play some four,” Kerr said. “He needs to be able to flourish in that role as well. So I think you’ll see some of that going forward. You’ll still see some five, too, depending on matchups and lineup combinations.”
It doesn’t take a coloring book expert to connect the dots here.
With Looney solidly in the starting group, and Wiseman figuring to play the bulk of backup center minutes, there just isn’t much room for Paschall to do his small ball bully ball thing.
Our guy Juanito is another complicating factor. Tremendous in spot duty at power forward recently, it’s hard to imagine Toscano-Anderson falling too far down Kerr’s depth chart - which will put another pressure point into the Shiatsu massage treatment that Paschall is going to have to push through in his ongoing fight for minutes.
This is the sort of problem a team loves to have. With so many options competing for playing time, it means that Kerr’s bench tinkering will continue for a while or at least until someone emerges from the fray as the clear best choice. In the meantime, expect a lot of different looks for the Warriors bench units as Golden State continues to stem the bleeding when Curry and Green sit.
Ok Knicks…ok. Let’s run it back!
If you’ll recall, this is the second meeting between these two teams this season. The Knicks won the first meeting, a 119-104 tragedy marred by an erroneous second technical called on Draymond Green (later rescinded). New York has been playing extremely well under new coach Tom Thibodeau.
They’ve got the third stringiest defense and are looking very much like a playoff team (in the East) this year. Julius Randle is having a beastly season: 23.2 points, 11 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game on his way to being an All-Star (which will be announced this afternoon ahead of today’s game).
He absolutely torched the Warriors in their first game, with 16 points and 17 rebounds; but I expect Draymond Green playing for the entire game this time around may turn the tables.
The Knicks and Warriors live on opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum in regards to pace, so it will be interesting to see who wins out in a battle between the second-fastest Warriors and a Knicks team that plays at the slowest pace in the league. It’s probably the most concerning aspect of this matchup for a Warriors team that has struggled a bit on offense (19th rank in NBA) despite the fecund fingers of Stephen Curry.
New York has won four of their last five games, but mostly against soft opponents. They’re also coming without center Mitchell Robinson, who’s missed the previous four games, and will be out at least through the All-Star break with a broken bone in his hand.
Warriors win a 1990’s era basketball game, 99-95.