The New York Knicks rolled over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, but in Sunday’s matchup against the defending champions, Derek Fisher’s group fell short against the Golden State Warriors.
Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis returned to the floor this weekend and played key roles in helping propel New York past the Suns by a final score of 102-84. However, in the 116-95 loss to the Warriors to wrap up the weekend, Fisher’s Knicks couldn’t keep pace after holding a lead entering the second quarter.
After the win on Friday over Phoenix, D-Fish praised the starting group for playing such a well-rounded game. According to Fisher, the return of Melo and Kris helped the starting unit have an excellent game and turn in a decisive win.
“The starters did really set the tone and obviously having Carmelo and Kristaps back makes a difference for us,” D-Fish said. “They played well. They had good energy and really shared the basketball. It was good to see.”
In his first game-action since sustaining a left knee injury, Melo was back on the court and looked like his old self. He finished with a plus-23 and led the team with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and two steals in 30 minutes. Fisher explained that Carmelo’s mindset throughout the game helped the team come away with such a one-sided victory.
“He had a good pace to his game where coming back off the knee, he didn’t try too hard to take over the game at any point. I thought that decision allowed him to see the floor and make some of the decisions he did with the pass,” Fisher said. “He’s been playing that type of basketball for several weeks now especially when he’s been healthy.”
Porzingis played well after missing the last game with a respiratory infection. He finished with seven points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 24 minutes. Robin Lopez had himself a solid game as well, finishing with 13 points, five boards and a blocked shot in 24 minutes.
The two starting guards each reached double-figures in scoring to add to the impressive performance from the starting group. Aaron Afflalo racked up 17 points and three assists in 29 minutes while Langston Galloway chipped in with 11 points, seven boards, five assists, a game-high three steals and a blocked shot in 28 minutes.
Afflalo had 12 of his 17 in the first quarter alone to help guide the Knicks out to a 26-16 lead. Melo took his turn, tallying nine points in the second quarter. Derrick Williams also turned in six off the bench thanks to 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line. Williams led the reserves in scoring with 10 points and was also second on the team with eight rebounds in 19 minutes of action.
At the break, the Knicks held a commanding 58-40 lead. The starting unit kept on the gas in the third quarter. Melo, Lopez and Galloway each had six points in the third, while Afflalo had five. As a result, New York was well in control, up 85-61 going into the fourth. The second unit took over from there. Lance Thomas and Sasha Vujacic combined for 15 points, four rebounds and four assists off the pine to round out a solid performance from the second unit.
After the morale-boosting win against the Suns, the Knicks had a tough task ahead of them in the matchup against the Warriors on Sunday night. Even though Fisher’s group contained Golden State’s superstar and held Steph Curry to only 13 points in the contest, the Warriors used their depth to show why they are the defending NBA champions.
Melo came out eager to pull off the upset. Anthony had 11 points in the first quarter as the Knicks jumped out to a 20-18 lead after 12 minutes. But in the second, Klay Thompson snapped for 17 points in the second quarter to help the Warriors pull away. Thompson had 12 more points in the third, while Draymond Green added seven. On the other end, the Knicks managed just 21.1 percent shooting.
“They went to another level of intensity and activity on the defensive end,” Fisher said. “I thought our energy was good. We competed pretty hard and we were right there.[The Warriors] went to more of a level than they’re capable of getting to in that third quarter and got some separation.”
Melo led the Knicks in scoring again with 24 points to go along with 10 boards, two assists and two blocked shots in 16 minutes of action. Porzingis was the team’s second-leading scorer with 14 points with six rebounds, an assist and a steal in 20 minutes.
Lopez and Afflalo struggled offensively with a combined 11 points in the contest. Galloway, while playing a standout game defensively, did have a decent overall game too. He finished with nine points, three rebounds, and led the team with five assists and three steals in 32 minutes.
As far as the reserve unit was concerned, Williams and Vujacic stood out for the second consecutive game. The two each scored 11 points, while Williams added six rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes and Vujacic contributed with a couple rebounds and assists each in 19 minutes of action.
Although Fisher’s game plan for keeping Curry in check worked out well, the Warriors have many capable players that can step up when their superstar player is having an off-night. Fisher explained that a few of the guys, including Galloway specifically, who were matched up with Curry throughout the night did a good job defensively. But it just wasn’t enough of a defensive effort all around.
“Langston I thought did a good job making [Curry] at least work hard to get his shot off. I thought at times the guys that switched on to him did a decent job defensively; making it difficult for him,” Derek explained. “They play a balanced game so even if one guy is down, they had other guys to step up.”
Fisher and the Knicks (23-27) will square off against the Boston Celtics (27-22) at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Boston has been playing great basketball of late as it tries to climb its way up the Eastern Conference standings. The C’s were on a five-game winning streak before losing a tough game to the Orlando Magic Sunday night, but are still only a half game back of the No. 3 seed in a tight conference race.
The Celtics got the best of the Knicks in the first matchup between the Atlantic Division-rivals this season in a 100-91 win in Boston, but New York evened the season series a couple weeks later with a 120-114 victory at home.
The game will tipoff at 7:30 p.m. EST and will be aired on MSG.