Game Thread: Two-Way Wiggs and the Warriors host the surprisingly fun Knicks

The Warriors have shown they're good, now must become consistent

In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) breaks out of prison with the help of fellow prisoner Azeem (Morgan Freeman) and returns to England. There’s an early scene where they run into the bandits while crossing a stream, and Robin is challenged to a duel with staffs. After getting his nose bloodied, lying in the (presumably cold) water, Robin looks to Azeem for advice and Azeem replies, “get up. Move Faster.”

In other words, the only adjustment needed is to not give up; just be a better version of yourself.

When asked (repeatedly) about his decision to stick with a starting lineup that had been getting torched, Kerr was steadfast - there would be no changes. “Get up. Move faster,” essentially.

After blasting back from a 19-point deficit to beat the mighty Lakers, Golden State appears to be getting up. With a solid win last night against the stable Spurs, it looks like the Warriors starting crew is standing up and ready to kick ass - next up: the surprisingly fun New York Knicks.


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (8-6) vs. New York Knicks (7-8)

WHEN: Thursday, January 21, 2021 // 7:00pm PST

WATCH: NBCSBA

Blog Buddy: The Strickland


This is not the same Warriors team that started the season

Golden State started off the season with a bang - but more of the Wile E. Coyote than the pretty firework type of “bang.” Since getting pounded by the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, the Warriors have done more than just add Draymond Green - there’s an evolution happening.

Rookie James Wiseman just played the best game (20 points, 6 rebounds) of his extremely short career; he is fifth in the NBA in dunks, and his defense, passing, and screens are noticeably improving daily. Perhaps most importantly, all of these improvements are coming together into a fully realized picture of what the future could hold for Wiseman and the rest of the core:

Andrew Wiggins is steadily turning down the volume on his criticisms, earning the nickname “Two Way Wiggs.” Defensively, he’s become the Warriors best option at the wing, and emerging as one of the only non-Curry outside shooting threats. Wiggins is currently hitting exactly 40% from three this season (43.1% if you exclude the first 2 games). Crazily, these are all enormous improvements on his historical averages - he’s a career 33% from deep. In Minnesota, he was part of bad defensive units, so it’s not so much that the “haters” were wrong, as it is that Wiggins is playing significantly better with the Warriors.

It’s a gamble that the Warriors front office took that appears to be paying off. After all, Nick Young didn’t improve, and as good as JaVale McGee was with Golden State, he hardly made any defensive strides. Whatever the magic combination is with Wiggins, it’s great to see him thriving here - even if I have to put on those novelty glasses with a fake mustache in order to visit Wiggins Island.

Kelly Oubre is joining the redemption parade too. After a historically rough beginning to his Warriors tenure, Oubre has begun to find his rhythm on offense.

Meet the new look Knicks

Believe it or not, Julius Randle may be leading this Tom Thibedeau-coached Knicks team in the right direction. It’s still a work in progress, but the Knicks defense is legitimate - the 6th stingiest in the NBA right now. Their offense is also, unfortunately, stingy, the fourth-worst in the league.

But it feels like actual progress is being made in the Big Apple. Rookie Obi Toppin, an early favorite of our good friend Patrick Murray, has missed time due to a sprained ankle, but might return tonight. Thibedeau is delivering a defensive identity to the Knicks in a similar way that Mark Jackson did (with the help of a bunch of new arrivals). Here’s Jack Huntley writing about this over at The Strickland, on what he called “Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks and the importance of identity, culture’s little cousin.”

…limiting turnovers, defensive rebounding, playing without fouling… the grunt work of winning. Monday night’s game, as both teams wrestled each other into shooting less than 34% from the field, was a contest dripping with a nostalgic Van Gundian aesthetic, with a box score worthy of an archetypal ‘90s NBA arm wrestle. For many Knicks fans, and for Thibs: ‘90s basketball feels like home.

The Warriors, another team with a strong defensive identity, could recapture some of that same 90’s basketball feeling tonight.

Predictions

The Warriors cannot be defeated!!

Jokes aside, I do think that Curry is going to stretch the Knicks defense to the point of breaking. Solid fundamentals are cool and all, but once your defense gets bent into an origami swan by Curry’s gravity, it’s another beast entirely.

Also, the wings keep thriving, I’m looking for another good game from both Oubre and Two Way Wiggs.

(I don’t think I like that nickname)