Warriors heating up, take on short-handed Knicks

As January ended, the New York Knicks looked like they might be ready to compete for their first championship in more than 50 years while the Golden State Warriors' dynastic run appeared to be on fume

Warriors heating up, take on short-handed Knicks

As January ended, the New York Knicks looked like they might be ready to compete for their first championship in more than 50 years while the Golden State Warriors’ dynastic run appeared to be on fumes.

Both teams will be in dramatically different positions Thursday night, when the Knicks host the Warriors in the teams’ first clash of the season.

Each squad was off Wednesday after playing Tuesday, when the undermanned Knicks fell to the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 115-92 and the surging Warriors began a four-game road trip by beating the Washington Wizards 123-112.

The Knicks were again without their optimal starting lineup Tuesday, when they fell to 4-7 this month. OG Anunoby (right elbow), Julius Randle (right shoulder) and Mitchell Robinson (ankle surgery) are all out indefinitely while Jalen Brunson (neck) and Isaiah Hartenstein (left Achilles) were scratched shortly before the opening tip.

The Knicks went 14-2 in January, when the arrival of Anunoby – acquired from the Toronto Raptors in a blockbuster trade Dec. 30 – solidified the team’s defense. New York allowed fewer than 110 points in 16 of 17 games between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1.

But Anunoby and Randle have each missed the past 13 games, a span in which Hartenstein has been sidelined four times and Brunson has been scratched twice. With both players out Tuesday, the Knicks trailed for the entirety of the second half, when they were outscored 67-45.

“Yes, we miss Jalen, but you miss Julius and you miss OG,” guard Donte DiVincenzo said of the Knicks, who have allowed 110 points or more in eight of their past 10 games.

“The first half was really good for us. We felt really confident going into the second half. We’ve just got to be more disciplined and play basketball for 48 minutes.”

The Knicks are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference but just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers, who are tied for the final two guaranteed playoff spots, and two games clear of the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers, who are tied for seventh place.

The Warriors are in a more precarious position in the Western Conference playoff race – at 30-27, they are in a virtual tie with the Los Angeles Lakers (31-28) for ninth place and the final two spots in the play-in tournament – but their short- and long-term future looked a little steadier Tuesday.

Hours after head coach Steve Kerr – who directed the Warriors to four titles in his first nine seasons – signed a two-year contract extension, veteran point guard Chris Paul, who’d missed the previous 21 games recovering from a broken left hand, returned to game action.

Paul collected nine points, six assists and four steals in 21-plus minutes off the bench for Golden State, which pulled away from the Wizards by outscoring them 38-17 in the third quarter.

The Warriors went 5-7 in January but are 10-3 this month.

“We’re in a really unique situation where we have an era that’s winding down and another that’s coming,” Kerr said after his extension was announced. “We’re trying to make them merge and make the most of that this year and next year.

“Let’s keep it rolling for another couple years and then reassess it.”