OAKLAND – This was offensive basketball in its purest form, as John Almighty Wooden taught it 50 years ago, yet it was simultaneously discordant, a group striving to harmonize but stumbling into the clash of notes going flat.
It wasn’t enough to deny victory, but it was plenty to indicate to Warriors coach Steve Kerr that his team needed a full-day refresh.
So the previously scheduled practice for Friday was cancelled late Thursday night in the wake of a listless and desultory 103-90 rolling of a Knicks team even most New Yorkers would have trouble recognizing in full dress.
Facing the Knicks without Carmelo Anthony or Derrick Rose and only 15 minutes of Joakim Noah, the Warriors succeeded mostly because they may be the most intelligent team in the NBA and also because they understand the grind game better than the likes of Ron Baker, Lance Thomas, Courtney Lee and Kristaps Porzingis.
Each of the Warriors’ first 36 baskets also came with an assist, creating a showcase of sharing that far exceeds even their lofty standard. The passes never stopped, even though sometimes they should have. The Warriors had 41 helpers, on 45 baskets.
“I thought that was the lone bright spot of the game was our guys’ willingness to share,” Kerr said. “They really look for each other. That’s a theme almost every night. That’s such a great quality to have as a team. So that was great.”
Kerr barely paused before making it evident he was able to look past the happy teamwork see a team trudging through its first game at Oracle Arena – which came 40 hours after returning from a diabolical five-game, seven-night road trip through three time zones.
“I didn’t think there was much purpose to anything we did at either end of the floor,” Kerr said. “We move the ball because our guys are instinctive with that and unselfish and they enjoy playing together with each other. So the ball movement was good, but no purpose offensively and very little interest defensively.
“We’re probably lucky we played a team without a couple of its best players, but we looked tired and disinterested out there.”
Despite scoring 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds and recording eight assists, Kevin Durant conceded that the Warriors missing their first five shots – and nearly a dozen shots within 10 feet – may have been an indication of a team dragging itself into a game.
“We were definitely a little sluggish,” he said. We need to be better in that area.”
The Warriors’ defense invited the Knicks to stick around, except they lacked the firepower to do so. With Anthony and Rose out and Kristaps Porzingis being shut down (8 points, 4-of-13 shooting) once again by Draymond Green, New York turned to the likes of Justin Holiday, who scored a team-high 15 points, and Baker, who chipped in 13.
That’s hardly enough to keep up with the Warriors (23-4), who have the comfort of being unselfish because they have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Durant and Green – even if that All-Star foursome, by the way, combined for 22-of-61 (36.1 percent) shooting.
“We moved the ball well offensively,” Green said. “But everything else other than that, it was a little off cue.”
So Kerr decided to pass on practice. Players can visit team headquarters to review video and receive treatment, but the idea is to spend the day recovering.
“We looked tired and we looked heavy legged,” Kerr said. “We weren’t making defensive rotations and we weren’t very active defensively. We did not look sharp. There is no question the schedule caught up to us, but it’s the schedule and you have to play through it.”
Play through it they did Thursday night, but practicing on Friday is gratuitous. They’ll come back Saturday morning for shootaround and that night face a Portland team with enough ammo to make the Warriors pay for a night without mojo.