Whatever it is — a halftime speech, a change in strategy, a wake-up call of sorts — the Warriors, particularly against bad teams, can slog through first halves and then turn on the jets in the third quarter.
It’s not the best strategy come playoff time. But it works against teams like the Knicks (24-38), as the Warriors (47-14) lollygagged for 24 minutes before outscoring the home team by 21 points in the third quarter to pull away for a 125-111 win in New York on Monday.
The Warriors entered the night averaging a plus-20.6 net rating in the third quarter to the lead the league. They matched that against the Knicks, outscoring them 39-18 to turn a one-point halftime deficit in a 20-point lead heading into the fourth.
No one had a specific reasoning for the third quarter runs, just that they were playing their brand of basketball. Head coach Steve Kerr said:
“It’s not like we’re doing anything different. I think we wear teams down a bit. If we are moving the ball. … maybe by the third quarter, we wear teams down.”
That much is true. And it all normally starts with swift ball movement, something the Warriors did well all night, assisting on 31 of their 44 field goals.
The second-half barrage began on a bit of luck, as Draymond Green banked in a desperation 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down. Green joked about it being the ignition:
“Man, it sparked the run, didn’t it? It got everybody going. My amazing shooting.”
It turned out to be the start of a 17-4 spurt that included makes on three of four 3-point attempts, a 4-point play by Stephen Curry, a Kobe-Jordan-esque turnaround jumper by JaVale McGee and a fastbreak led by Zaza Pachulia, who successfully put on a behind-the-back move.
It was that kind of quarter, and that kind of night. The Warriors shot 63 percent in the third quarter and made seven of their 10 three-point attempts while holding the Knicks to 29 percent shooting.
Curry, who recorded 14 of his 21 points in the third, said:
“We stick to our program. It is a 48-minute game. … We come out of halftime with some juice and energy. It’s winning time.”
The Knicks kept pace with the Warriors in the first half, shooting 58 percent from the field while the Warriors were at 54 percent. Both teams were also at over 40 percent from the 3-point linen a see-saw first half.
The Warriors allowed a number of open shots and seemed lackadaisical defensively, a far cry from their stellar effort against the Thunder on Sunday, when they allowed just 80 points in all. Fittingly, the first half ended with Lance Thomas making a wide-open corner three at the buzzer to put the Knicks ahead 64-63.
New York could muster no such magic in the second half, though, as they relented under the overwhelming pressure of the classic Warrior third-quarter blitz.
According to Green, the Warriors changed their mindset defensively to combat the Knicks’ early offensive surge:
“As opposed to saying, ‘Hey, man they’re hitting shots that they usually don’t, the conversation is, ‘We’ve got to make them miss.’ Once we started to do that, flying around and contesting every shot.”
Curry reiterated that it was an ideal game:
“When we are locked in and taking care of the ball, playing solid defense, that [third quarter] is what happens.”
The Warriors travel to the Washington D.C. Monday night and will play the Wizards (38-25) on Wednesday in the nation’s capital. They will not visit the White House after being “disinvited” by President Donald Trump in a tweet last year, breaking a tradition for championship teams.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Instead, they will tour a museum with a group of local kids.
Thompson said the Warriors didn’t want to politicize anything, but noted:
“White House is a great honor, but there’s some other circumstances that make us uncomfortable going.”
Five years ago, Curry recorded 54 points at Madison Square Garden, which was a career high. … Jordan Bell made his return to action from a swollen left ankle, logging early minutes at the power forward position. Kerr said that Bell looked good, healthy and active … McGee started at center for the third consecutive game instead of Pachulia. Pachulia, mired in controversy after falling on Russell Westbrook’s leg on Saturday, was booed by the MSG crowd when he entered the game. Durant complimented McGee on running the floor, setting screens and making great passes. … Draymond Green, who was assessed a technical foul in Saturday’s game — giving him 15 on the season, one away from a one-game suspension — received word from the league Monday that the foul had been rescinded.