Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle
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Warriors forward Kevin Durant isn’t sure why speculation has rat-a-tat-tatted for the past six months that he might sign with the Knicks next summer.
“I just focus on playing ball every single day,” Durant said after shoot-around Tuesday morning. “I can’t control what people say about me, about my future or what I should do.”
In his last game against New York before he’ll have the chance to opt out of his contract with Golden State, Durant saw just how much the Knicks could use him. Golden State breezed to a 122-95 rout of New York on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena to snap a three-game home losing streak, which matched its longest such skid since Steve Kerr took over before the 2014-15 season.
It was a case study in contrasts: The Warriors, with their switch-heavy defense and quartet of All-Stars in their prime, against a Knicks team loaded with spare parts. Even when Kristaps Porzingis returns from a left knee injury that has sidelined him all season, New York would probably need more than Durant to seriously contend for an NBA title.
After closing the first half on a 13-0 run to enter intermission with a 61-49 lead, Golden State held the Knicks to 19 third-quarter points to build a 26-point cushion. Durant (24 points, six assists, six rebounds) and Stephen Curry (14 points on just 5-for-19 shooting) were free to watch the final 12 minutes from the bench as Klay Thompson polished off a 43-point gem.
To eclipse the 40-point mark for the 12th time in his career, Thompson shot 18-for-29 from the field. The Warriors notched more than twice as many assists (36) as turnovers (15) as they held New York to 39.8 percent shooting (25.0 percent from three-point range).
It was the type of all-around dominance that Golden State has struggled to capture this season, even against overmatched opponents. Now at the official midpoint of the season, the Warriors have outscored teams by an average of fewer than six points per game. Not since early November has Golden State won four games in a row.
But while many see disappointment, the Warriors see potential.
Over the past 2.5 months, as it piled up far more losses than it had to this point in any of the previous four seasons under Kerr, Golden State endured a locker-room rift between Durant and Draymond Green, injuries to Curry and Green, one of the most pronounced shooting slumps of Thompson’s career and uncharacteristically inconsistent defense. Despite all that, the Warriors sit just a game back of Denver for the Western Conference’s top seed.
A team stocked with future Hall of Famers has plenty of room to improve. And it only helps that four-time NBA All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, who has made significant strides in his conditioning in recent weeks, is eyeing a return from his torn left Achilles tendon Jan. 18 against the Clippers at Staples Center.
It all represents a sort of basketball utopia when juxtaposed against the Knicks’ lengthy rebuild. Now in his fifth season leading Golden State, Kerr has yet to lose a game to New York, which hasn’t found a player worthy of complementing a healthy Porzingis.
Still, many have pointed to the Knicks as the likeliest candidate to land Durant should he decide not to re-sign with the Warriors next summer. Among the reasons for this theory: Durant’s close friend and manager, Rich Kleiman, is a New Yorker who hopes to run the Knicks some day, and Durant’s father, Wayne Pratt, has long been a vocal supporter of the franchise.
Those close to Durant, however, have a tough time imagining him bolting for a team with little shot at a championship. And as Tuesday’s drubbing reinforced, New York might be more than a generational talent away from contention.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Warriors-ride-Klay-Thompson-43-point-gem-to-rout-13519463.php.