Draymond Green

Warriors' defense steps up, fuels convincing win vs. Knicks 

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It wasn't that long ago that any discussion about the Warriors' defense started with some criticism and ended with a lot of hand-wringing and concern.

That tune seems to be changing now, especially after Golden State put together one of its better all-around defensive performances of the season during Thursday's 110-99 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Playing a short ride from historical Broadway, the Dubs' defense received rave reviews from coach Steve Kerr and some of Golden State's players.

Even Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau had good words to say about the Warriors' defense, opening his post-game press conference offering praise to Golden State.

"They're very good defensively," Thibodeau said. "You give them credit."

There wasn't much of a need to give the Warriors substantial credit for anything they were doing defensively through the first third of the season.

Since Draymond Green's return from his second NBA suspension this season, however, Golden State has been on a steady upward trend defensively.

"We're just playing very hard," Green told reporters after Thursday's win. "Guys are connected, helping each other on the defensive end, and it's working for us."

It definitely worked well against the Knicks.

The win marked the second time in seven days that the Warriors held an opponent under 100 points. Golden State also shut down Charlotte, holding the Hornets to 84 points on Feb. 23.

The game with the Knicks was very similar.

After limiting the Hornets to 36.4 percent shooting – the lowest an opponent has shot against the Warriors during the 2023-24 season – Golden State kept New York from mounting much of an offense while allowing the Knicks to shoot just 36.8 percent (35 of 95) from the floor and 30.8 percent (12 of 39) on 3-pointers.

That's a significant improvement from their previous 10 games, when opponents were shooting an even 46 percent from the field and 34 percent beyond the arc.

Kerr specifically pointed out the work from Moses Moody, who didn't completely shut down Knicks All-Star guard Jalen Brunson but forced him to take 25 shots just to score 27 points.

"The defense was excellent, I really thought Moses Moody stood out tonight," Kerr told reporters. "His defense on [Jalen] Brunson, I thought he did a great job of defending him without fouling, just trying to make things difficult. Jalen is a great player and he's able to get wherever he wants, generally. so crafty in the lane. I thought Moses did a great job of making it as difficult as possible, without fouling, forcing him [Brunson] into some tough shots.

Jonathan Kuminga also came up big for the Warriors while adding another layer to Golden State's defense. Kuminga had two of the Dubs' five blocks, his second multi-block effort in the last four games.

There were several defensive highlights to go around.

Rookie Brandin Podziemski raced up from behind and poked the ball away from Bojan Bogdanović to force a turnover in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, Gary Payton II also came storming up from behind and jumped to completely smother a shot attempt by Josh Hart. The ball never got out of Hart's hands before Payton was all over it.

Even when the Knicks made their run and got close in the fourth quarter, the Warriors' defense rose up and stopped New York from completing what would have been a remarkable comeback.

After the Knicks pulled to 90-85 with six minutes remaining and had a shot to trim the gap even more, Moody swatted a jumper from Alec Burks, grabbed the rebound, and then made a long outlet pass to Kuminga, who made a running layup.

It definitely helped the Warriors that they didn't have to face Julius Randle or OG Anunoby, both of whom were inactive. Randle (24.0) is the Knicks' second-leading scorer, while Anunoby is fourth on New York with a 15.6 average.

"We're playing with confidence, we're playing better defense," Green said. "Obviously, the Knicks were short-handed tonight. They're going through it right now from an injury standpoint so we caught them on a night they had to play their guys a lot of minutes."

Still, the Warriors did what they're supposed to do to a team missing key components. They got out to a quick start, then weathered the storm when the Knicks tried to mount a late comeback.

Now, when Golden State's defense is talked about, it's for much more positive reasons than earlier in the season.

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