OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Mark Jackson didn’t see much significance in coaching Golden State to a win against his former team.
It was the way the Warriors beat the New York Knicks that meant the most to Jackson — doing it with a defensive focus that hasn’t been seen from this franchise on a consistent basis in more than a decade.
Then again, that’s been Jackson’s message to his players ever since he was hired in June.
“This is going to be strange to hear: We’re a defensive team,” Jackson said following Golden State’s 92-78 victory Wednesday night. “It’s a shocker. Great players are going to come in and have great nights, but our job is make it tough. We had a bad first half offensively, but the defense gave us a chance to win a ballgame.”
Golden State definitely made it tough on New York’s All-Star duo of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who combined to go just 8 of 27 from the floor after teaming for 58 points in the Knicks’ Christmas Day win over the Boston Celtics.
Stoudemire finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Anthony had 13 points.
“The whole game our offense was awful,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We weren’t in synch, we didn’t make shots, we turned the ball over and we gave them layups. Whatever kind of mistakes you can make, we made. It was awful.”
Monta Ellis shook off a terrible first half to finish with 22 points and eight assists, while Brandon Rush added 19 points off the bench for Golden State (2-1).
Playing without injured guard Stephen Curry, the Warriors led by as much as 19 before cruising to their second straight impressive win over an Eastern Conference team. Two nights earlier they beat the Chicago Bulls 99-91.
Ish Smith had 11 points, four assists and six rebounds while starting in place of Curry, who sat out the game after injuring his surgically repaired ankle against Chicago.
Ellis went just 4 of 15 in the first half but scored eight straight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, midway through the fourth quarter when Golden State pulled away.
But it was the Warriors’ defense that made the biggest difference — a refreshing change considering the team’s recent history of shunning that part of the game.
“That’s our focus, defense,” Ellis said. “Just going out there getting the job done. That’s what’s keeping us in the game against great teams like this. Our defense kept us in the game and the offense won the game for us.”
No one else could pick up the scoring slack for the Knicks, who were also outrebounded 47-31 by the smaller but quicker Warriors.
Landry Fields had 13 of his 14 points in the first half. Bill Walker also scored 14 for the Knicks, who failed in their bid to start the season with consecutive victories for the first time since 1999.
Former Knick David Lee scored 13 points for Golden State (2-1).
This was the first stop on a three-game trip to the West Coast for New York.
The Knicks, who beat the Celtics on Christmas Day to kick off the truncated NBA schedule after losing all eight games to Boston in 2010, play the Lakers in Los Angeles on Thursday. They return to Northern California to face the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.
The Warriors played without Curry, who landed awkwardly on his surgically repaired right ankle in the fourth quarter of Monday’s win over Chicago.
It was the second time in seven days that Curry injured the ankle. He also missed eight games last season because of lingering ankle problems.
“It was the best thing to give it some time to heal,” Jackson said before the game. “Bottom line is he got hurt landing on somebody and we are going to give it some time to heal.”
Smith started in place of Curry and scored seven of Golden State’s first 10 points. He finished 5 of 13 from the floor.
Anthony and Stoudemire couldn’t get much of anything to fall. The duo repeatedly settled for long jumpers, a trend that continued deep into the fourth quarter.
Even with their two stars off to a slow start, the Knicks took a 43-37 lead into the half.
Golden State closed the gap with a 15-5 run early in the second half, tied the game at 64 when Rush made a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter, then took control with 20-6 burst in the fourth.
The Warriors opened a 19-point lead with 4:09 left when the Knicks frustrations began to show. Tyson Chandler tossed Lee to the ground and was whistled for a technical foul, bringing the sold-out crowd at Oracle Arena to its feet.
“I’m not making any excuses, but we’re a young team that’s coming together and we have to build,” said Chandler, who was held to two points and three rebounds. “Unfortunately, we’re learning things on the fly.”
Notes: The Warriors have agreed to terms with 7-foot-1 free agent center Kyrylo Fesenko on a one-year contract pending Fesenko passing a physical. Fesenko, who spent the past four seasons mostly as a backup with the Utah Jazz, was in Golden State’s locker room before the game but neither nor the Warriors can talk about the deal until it is complete. … The Warriors have sold out the first three games on this four-game homestand. … Former Golden State guard Jeremy Lin, who signed with the Knicks on Tuesday, entered the game late in the fourth quarter and missed his only shot attempt.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.