The Great Eight.
In one dominant night at MSG, the Knicks extended their NBA-best winning streak to eight and snapped an eight-game home losing streak to the Warriors.
The defending champs were no match without Stephen Curry, who watched in street clothes as Jalen Brunson dropped 21 points to beat Golden State in MSG for the first time since 2014.
The Knicks (18-13) led by as many as 38 and even Tom Thibodeau — who rarely acknowledges garbage time as a real thing — kept out most of his starters for the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 132-94 victory.
Thibodeau got so comfortable he took a seat on the bench for the final four minutes, a sight rarely seen from one of the NBA’s most intense coaches.
“I’ve never seen that in Thibs’ three seasons here,” Julius Randle said. “I’ve never seen him sit down. So that’s crazy.”
Randle had 15 points with 12 rebounds. Quentin Grimes added 19 points. Immanuel Quickley broke out of a shooting slump by hitting six of his 10 attempts for a team-high 22 points.
By sitting the fourth quarter, Randle, Brunson and RJ Barrett kept their minutes down in preparation for Wednesday’s back-to-back game against the Raptors.
“Feeling good. Good win,” Barrett said. “Everybody played well across the board, so it’s a fun game to be a part of, fun win, and just knowing that we got another one tomorrow.”.
Still, the crowd was lethargic and quiet compared to the moment. The atmosphere was missing the usual spectacle of Golden State’s annual trip to the Garden, and that was mostly because of Curry’s absence.
The reigning Finals MVP, who last season set the NBA’s all-time 3-point record at MSG, is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, leaving the Warriors without their parachute to soften this early-season fall.
Despite their eight-game winning streak at MSG, the Warriors (15-17) entered as 5 ½-point underdogs against the Knicks, according to DraftKings, which could be chalked up to three things:
1. The Warriors are now 3-15 on the road and terrible away from the Chase Center.
2. Curry and Andrew Wiggins didn’t play.
3. Golden State’s once stalwart defense is leaky and uninspiring.
On the defense, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said a dropoff in intensity was “natural” since redemption was no longer a motivating factor.
In other words, the Warriors lost their edge.
“Last year we came in and we hadn’t made the playoffs in two years. We couldn’t wait to show everybody we were still here. We started out 18-2, No. 1 defense in the league. You win the championship and there’s just a natural human nature dropoff,” Kerr said. “You’re just not on edge. Combine that with other factors — injuries and stuff — it’s just we haven’t gotten there yet.”
The Knicks don’t have that problem. They were almost at full strength, per usual, with only Obi Toppin on the injury list. They scored 69 points in the first half. Their Big 3 of Brunson, Randle and Barrett have played every game this season, an anomaly in Adam Silver’s NBA of injury maintenance and management.
“Durability is big in this league. You want to be able to count on people. Dependability is important,” Thibodeau said. “That’s how you build chemistry. The more time you’re together, the better.”
Still, not everybody is convinced the Knicks’ winning streak will translate to greater success. Charles Barkley remains skeptical.
“Whoopty doo,” Barkley said on the TNT pregame show before alluding to the Brooklyn Nets. “They’re not even the best team in their city.”
Barkley was following up on similar pessimism from fellow TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal, who predicted an early exit if the Knicks make the playoffs.
“I don’t think they can get out of one round,” O’Neal said.
Randle agreed not to overstate an early-season winning streak.
“I think winning naturally gives confidence,” he said. “I’m not going to put much into a winning streak. It’s still December.”