The Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks are literally situated at opposite ends of the country. But right now the two teams share a lot in common. They are in a slump of sorts, and they are slumping at the wrong time.
After a blistering start the Knicks carry a modest 15-15 record. The Warriors shocked everyone by surging into the 5th spot in the West but recently struggled through a 6 game losing streak with an average losing margin of almost 18 points a game.
It’s certainly no time to press the panic button. The Warriors are still game for their first playoff appearance since 2007 while it’s difficult to see the Knicks drop below the third seed in the East. But their current form needs to change quickly if they hope to make noise in the playoffs.
Neither team is playing strong defence: The Knicks and the Warriors allow 104.2 and 104.3 points per 100 possessions respectively (nba.com), which is 20th and 21st in the league. They rely on their scoring, so predictably they struggle against elite defensive teams – both teams have been utterly dominated by the Bulls, the Grizzlies and the Pacers, the defensive ‘Big Three’ of the NBA.
Just a quick glance at the box scores reveals that an amazing number of Golden State losses are big double digit losses, suggesting that their heads drop when things aren’t going their way. For reference see how they surrendered meekly to the Houston Rockets on February 5, conceding an NBA record 23 3-pointers. Similarly, the Knicks have a tendency to unravel in a big way when they struggle offensively, especially against the aforementioned Big Three. Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler are all in the top ten in technical fouls. Rasheed Wallace would certainly crack the list if he was healthy. A loss of discipline can be overlooked in the regular season, but under the magnifying glass of the playoffs it becomes way too expensive.
The Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks are obviously much improved from last season. The Warriors were a lottery team while the Knicks needed a late run to make the playoffs as a seventh seed after Mike Woodson had taken hold of the reigns. Now however expectations are much higher and they need to find, amongst other things, mental toughness to get back to the level they were at in the beginning of the season.
They play each other tonight for the first time this season at Madison Square Garden, where both teams will be looking to stop the rut and generate momentum.
image: © ctsnow