by Russ Bengtson

Not for nothing, but for a team coming back home from a disastrous road trip with their tail between their legs, rife with strife and defensively deficient (man, Clyde Frazier is possessing me lately, I swear), you’d pretty much rather run into ANY team except the Golden State Warriors. Losers of their first six, the run and gunners are on a two-game win streak thanks in part to the return (after a seven-game suspension) of captain and sparkplug Stephen Jackson (hereon referred to as Stack Jack).

The Knicks? Two weeks ago they were blowing out the Nuggets at home. Since? They haven’t won a game, and have been blown out by those same Nuggets in Denver. So it’s 2-6 against 2-7, only one is on the way up, and the other? We’ll see. But if they don’t start hot tonight, God help them.

PREGAME

Nothing much doing in either locker room. Over on the visitor’s side, New Jersey native Al Harrington stands with his tattooed back to the room, clad in only practice shorts and argyle socks, sorting a preposterous number of tickets. The rookies are clustered in a far corner.

Over on the home side, no one’s home. Zach Randolph rolls through and does a quick interview, but that’s about it. Not that this is unusual.

Kicks check: Baron’s wearing last year’s Iversons, Stack Jack’s in a pair of black Jordan XX2 PEs.

Tonight’s National Anthem is performed by the cast of Chuckleball. No further comment necessary.

Ah, the introductions. Baron is cheered, ditto Al Harrington. But the Knick intros is what we were all waiting for. Isiah is booed pretty lustily, with an undercurrent of cheers. Waiting for Steph…let’s see. Q first—cheers. Z-Bo—cheers. Eddy Curry—cheers. Jamal—cheers. Aaaaand, Stephon—boos, no chaser. Worse than Isiah got, definitely. Welcome home, Steph!

Balkman and Jerome James are out. The latter is no surprise. It’s a reasonable guess that Malik Rose, while in uniform, won’t be needing it.

FIRST QUARTER

Tonight, the role of Nellie is being played by Frank Caliendo. He’s also wearing an extremely bright red t-shirt under his sportscoat.

Steph is booed bringing the ball upcourt after the tip. And on every touch thereafter. It’s possible that, following the game, he’ll demand a trade back to Minnesota. Steph for Antoine Walker and…anyone?

Loose ball foul on Biedrins, who at least looks less Growing Up Gotti this year. It’s not that he has less gel in his hair, it’s just that he has less hair to gel.

Curry and Zach start the game headbandless, and Zach starts the scoring with a drive to the basket.

Steph drive and dish to Curry for the dunk. Short boos continue—Steph doesn’t hold the ball long. 4-0, Knicks.

Foul on Steph, Baron to the line.

Steph is still booed on every possession. Curry misses. Jack comes back with a long jumper. The Warriors have apparently been in New York for two days, and it’s possible that Jack has been out the entire time.

Harrington misses a long jumper that Eddy half-heartedly steps out to contest. Centers that play like small forwards are not Eddy’s dream matchup. Of course it’s hard to say exactly who Eddy’s dream matchup would be. Whoever it is would probably be made of Ho-Hos.

Jack misses a long one over Q.

Z-Bo over Harrington. Efficiency.

Q strips Biedrins underneath, gets it ahead to Steph, to Curry, who’s fouled by Al. Exit Harrington for Pietrus. Curry misses both long, Zach with a loose-ball foul on the rebound. He disagrees with the referees assessment, to no avail.

Davis over Steph.

Eddy Curry dunk.

Pietrus backdoor.

A long Q miss leads to a Warrior break, Baron finds Pietrus on the drive, who’s fouled by Q underneath. Pietrus hits the first, the Knicks lane violate the second. He misses the replacement, too. 8-up.

Eddy. Jump-step, layin. He’s got six points to go with his zero rebounds. Eddy’s a heck of a scorer inside. Everything else? Not so much.

Patrick O’Bryant replaces Biedrins. They really need to announce him with more of a brogue. If he played for the Nets he’d probably be sponsored by Guinness.

Steph’s entry pass to Curry is knocked away by Baron. Out of bounds to the Knicks. Crawford shoots over Kelenna Azbuike, good.

Pietrus drive.

Crawford tries to force an entry pass to a triple-teamed Curry who almost loses it, but recovers. He’s fouled by O’Bryant, and hits one of two.

Steph misses a three badly from up top, and the boos resume. Loudly. Hey, at least the crowd is paying attention, right?

Crawford misses a corner three, Jack saves the long rebound from in front of the Knick bench to the front of the wrong basket—uh, that’s a mistake—Crawford races in to grab it and dunks on Azbuike.

The good feelings are short-lived, however. Baron immediately hits a three, the Knicks fail to score on their next trip, and Baron hits a layup with the foul, which is on Steph. That’s two.

Following the time out, enter Mardy Collins. Baron hits the freebie.

Pietrus strips Z-Bo on the entry pass, Davis takes it all the way. Another Knick TO, Davis to Pietrus for the dunk. That’s a 10-0 Warrior run, all fueled by Boom Dizzle.

Z-Bo is SWARMED. Misses two attempts, Baron comes out with it, runs into the back of an unsuspecting Curry, drops like a ton of bricks. Curry’s tagged with his second foul and goes out for David Lee, Baron goes to the line, hits one of two. Fred Jones and Austin Croshere are in as well.

Crawford, corner three. Stack Jack with the basket and 1 (Fred Jones). Warriors lead 24-18.

Another Knick turnover. Davis on the perimeter, fires a pass inside to Jackson, who’s fouled by Z-Bo. The Knicks are over the limit. And Jack misses both.

Defensive three seconds on the Warriors. Enter Monta Ellis for Baron and Nate for JC. “Welcome to the freshman/sophomore game,” Sam says.

David Lee, loose ball foul. Pietrus to the line. Crawford comes in for Z-Bo, so it’s Jamal, Nate, Mardy, Fred and David Lee. Small ball, baby. Isiah Thomas is the new Avery Johnson, adjusting to the Warriors. MP hits both and it’s 26-18, Warriors.

Jack with the weakside block on Lee in the post. The Croshere/Lee matchup is, uh, pale.

It’s a bad sign when James Blunt gets a better reception than Stephon Marbury.

The Knicks come out with a 24-second violation out of timeout. There was only a little time left on the 24, but still.

Azbuike over JC. Aaaand, the Warriors lead by 10.

Lee, dunk. Applause! They like you! They really like you! (Actually, they really DO like him.)

Ellis, give and go with Stack Jack. Monta is fast. 30-20.

Nate flings a risky cross-court pass to JC in the corner, who misses. Monta is fouled by Nate. Hits one of two.

Fred Jones tries to go behind the back in the lane and predictably turns it over. The Warriors reciprocate by throwing it away, but Isiah has seen enough of Jonesy. Fred, out for Q.

Monta fouls Nate on the drive, the Warriors are still not over the limit. Off the inbounds Q creates space, misses the layup, Lee with the rebound and the putback.

Warriors palming violation.

The Knicks have the ball with 26 seconds left in the quarter. Lee gets an open dunk off a pass from JC. Ellis misses, and it’s 31-24 Golden State after 1. The Knicks are cheered as they leave the floor thanks to those last two buckets from Lee. It’s worth noting that the Warriors went 8-14 from the line in the quarter.

SECOND QUARTER

Steph is back out there, as is Baron. Al Harrington, also back.

Stack Jack, travel.

Q is blocked by the rim, once again Lee gets it and puts it in. 31-26

Jack misses, Steph comes back with a driving layup. Cheers ring out! 31-28.

Baron drive, stripped, Knicks set up. Marbury loses it on the drive, Harrington recovers on the floor, calls time.

Biedrins returns. Ellis drives the baseline, Lee steps in to draw the charge, gets called for the block. Monta hits both.

Nate rims out a corner three, Davis misses a three of his own. Steph misses a jumper, winds up getting the ball back as Lee battles inside, and Steph hits a driving layup over Biedrins. Biedrins scores on the other end.

Steph dropoff to Lee, who commits an offensive foul, his third. Re-enter Curry and Z-Bo. Also welcome Marco Belinelli.

Biedrins is called foul on Curry as he sets up inside. That’s two on Biedrins.

They show Robert Wuhl on the scoreboard, who’s pointing emphatically to the person next to him. Which happens to be Charles Oakley, of all people. I can only assume he’s here to punch somebody in the face. There are many candidates.

Nate misses a three, and the rebound bounces over the backboard.

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Mbenga replaces Stack Jack.

Monta drive, miss.

Jamal, wide-open corner three. He doesn’t miss those often. 35-33, Warriors.

Baron scores over Steph off the dribble.

Harrington is called for a foul trying to guard Z-Bo near the perimeter. The Knicks inbound, and Harrington gets called for the exact same thing as Z-Bo stumbles. That’s three on Al. Enter Mickeal Pietrus—who immediately gets called for a foul of his own. The Warriors have four team fouls with over seven minutes to go in the quarter. The Knicks inbound again, Zach finally gets the ball…and turns it over. Baron wets a three. 40-33, Warriors.

Steph with the driving layup, and 1 Monta. Steph hits the freebie and bathes in the polite applause.

Monta drives, elevates for a two-handed dunk, is met at the rim by Curry. It looks like a clean block, but he held (or at least touched) the rim with his other hand. Goaltending.

Z-Bo catches deep underneath, fouled by Pietrus. First. Mardy in for EC. Second.

Belinelli, for three. The rook is on the board.

Zack catches, three jab steps, no dribble, missed shot. Nate gets the rebound, misses by a country mile. Warriors can’t do nothing, Steph drives and is fouled by someone. After a TO, Steph hits a pair.

Pietrus backdoor cut, Baron alley-oop pass.

Z-Bo is the new Anthony Mason. He burns clock just standing there, then shoots. Dribbling, heh. Ball movement, heh. A Jedi craves not these things.

Collins misses, the Warriors battle each other for the rebound, Z-Bo winds up with it, hits, gets fouled by Mbenga. He’s got nine points and 10 boards. 47-44, Warriors.

Biedrins layup from Ellis.

Robinson drives, has it slapped away, Davis recovers, gets fouled by Collins. Enter Q for Nate. Well, Isiah has established one thing—drive out of control, meet the bench. It’s a start?

Belinelli tries an insane running three from up top, misses. The Knicks recover and promptly turn it over. Pietrus converts. Nellie should probably yank Belinelli after that, but who knows if he’s even watching.

Z-Bo, another rebound and another layup. Elevens for Z-Bo.

Belinelli misses from up close.

Baron makes Mardy Collins look silly. This is not unexpected.

Crawford turns it over, Jack gets a layup. 55-45, Warriors.

Q answers with a layup, and Jack buries a three over Marbury. When it rains, it pours.

Collins dumps an entry pass to Curry, who drops it out of bounds on the baseline right near Jimmy Dolan. Boos rain down.

Steph drives, tries a ridiculous wraparound pass to Curry. Out of bounds back to the Knicks. Collins throws the inbounds pass right to Biedrins. More boos. Then he fouls Davis on the perimeter.

Speaking about not unexpected, an impromptu FIRE ISIAH chant starts in earnest.

Davis is fouled on the drive, heads to the line. Hits both. It’s 60-47. Nate misses a runner to end the half, and the teams exit to a cacophony of boos. Z-Bo has 11 points and 12 boards at the half, and that’s the bright spot. Eddy has ZERO boards in 15 minutes of play, and the Knicks have 15 turnovers. The Warriors would be up by more, except Jack is off (1-4 from three) and Harrington has as many points as Chris Mullin.

Right at the end of the half, Dolan walks over to the sideline opposite the Knick bench to talk to Mayor Bloomberg. I can only imagine the ensuing conversation. “Come on, Mike. $600 million cash right now. That’s a bargain!”

THIRD QUARTER

The “foul and abusive language will get you kicked out” warning is repeated on the HD scoreboard before the second half starts. Man, f*ck that.

Jack over Q. Miss.

Three-second violation as Q gets caught in the air and has to pass instead of shoot.

Jack three, no. Z-Bo rebound.

Marbury’s step-back two misses, Davis rebounds.

Davis miss.

Z Bo face up. And face up some more. And is stripped by Jack. After a pair of Warrior misses, NY calls time with two minutes gone and no scores at all. At least the Knick City Dancers aren’t getting booed yet.

Fred Jones comes in for Q.

Curry is blocked, we go the other way. Azbuike misses, and Curry finally gets a rebound. Tommy point!

Zach! And finally someone scores! Damn near three minutes into the third. Z-Bo corrals a defensive board and he’s got 13 and 15. Knick turnover, Baron can’t hit the layup, neither can Al. Marbury misses, Zach gets it, is fouled. Hits a pair. That’s 15 and 16, and it’s 60-51. Jack finds Kelenna underneath, and the Warriors are finally on the board in the quarter, nearly four minutes in.

Z-Bo faceup…forever. Three seconds on Curry. It’s possible that Z-Bo’s general plan is to wait out double teams until they get bored and wander away.

Then the Knicks are called for a defensive three seconds on the other end—the rare double three-seconds call. Is Isiah actually trying to get fired? Like, before the end of the quarter? Stephen Jackson misses the freebie.

Al Harrington tips in a Davis miss—his first points of the game. Good thing he bought tickets for 2,589 people tonight.

Fred Jones drives, is fouled by Harrington (4). Lee in for Curry. Pietrus in for Harrington. Fred hits the first, misses the second (lane violation), hits the replacement.

Andris Biedrins catches on the high post, and with no entry pass presenting itself, he awkwardly drives the lane—and is fouled by Marbury. His fourth. Not a smart foul by any stretch of the imagination.

Pietrus misses a corner three, and Biedrins fouls Z-Bo in setup mode (3). It’s amazing that the Warriors are leading by double digits seeing that they’re not playing terribly well either.

Z-Bo rattles out a 22-footer, Q rebounds, Lee hits a layup. 64-55, Warriors. Warrior timeout. 6:17 to go in the quarter.

Biedrins hits over Z-Bo, and Steph comes back down with a driving layup over Baron.

Pietrus travels before he gets a chance to commit the inevitable offensive foul. So that’s good.

Z-Bo goes to work quick with a turnaround, gets blocked from behind by Jack. Lee recovers and puts the ball off the side of the backboard. Jack turns it right back over with a travel.

Biedrins is called for his 4th foul. Enter Austin Croshere.

Z-Bo overdribbles and gets stripped by Baron, who takes it all the way for a layup. They’re onto you, Zach.

Steph drives straight down the lane and hits a tough layup. Croshere answers with a three, and the Warriors are up 12.

Steph rims out a three, Azbuike rebounds, winds up with a driving layup. The boos start up again. 73-59, Warriors.

Offensive foul, Zach Randolph.

Croshere bowls over Q’s back on a loose ball. Warriors are over the limit. To the line. Miss (boo), enter Curry for Zach, miss.

The Fire Isiah chant starts again, only louder.

Pietrus misses a three, loose ball foul on Fred Jones. Mbenga!

Kelenna misses a three, Jack misses a three, loose ball foul on Lee. Z-Bo comes back in for Lee. Delay of game warning on Knicks. Sam points out that they seem to be trying to accumulate every possible technical foul.

Travelling on Croshere. Crawford in for Steph with 1:42.

Curry fouled by Mbenga after two-man game with Fred Jones. Yeah, that’s got a future. Miss (boo), hit. FIRE ISIAH (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap).

Azbuike, no.

Curry stripped by Jack, Azbuike misses the layup, Mbenga follows.

Curry, yes.

Baron misses a three, the Knicks set up, Curry with the offensive foul underneath while trying to get position. 13.4 seconds left. Baron takes 11.3 to hit a jumper.

Fred Jones misses everything with a halfcourt pullup, and the boos rain down. It’s 77-62 Warriors after three despite Stack Jack going 0-for the quarter. It helps that Baron has 25, 5 and 5. Scary.

FOURTH QUARTER

Ellis in for Davis to start the fourth.

Eddy Curry, yes.

Jack drives baseline, is fouled by Q. Hits both.

Q misses corner 3, Mbenga loose ball foul.

Crawford misses a three, Croshere rebounds, Stack Jack hits a triple, ending his personal drought. 82-64, Warriors.

The Knicks turn it over, a Warrior three on one break winds up with Mbenga soaring in for the one-handed dunk—and he loses the ball on his way up, perhaps envisioning the 20-point lead that would have resulted. Shame.

Azbuike fouls Lee. Lee hits both. 82-66.

Ellis misses, and Q catches his first serious dunk in 37 years. Assist, Marbury. And it’s 82-68.

Jack. Drive. Turnaround. Baseline. Good. Had to figure he would get hot sooner or later.

Crawford baseline jumper. 84-70.

Croshere give and go with Jack, open layup for the Cro Show. 86-70.

Mbenga blocks Lee, Crawford with the foul in the paint. Time out.

People are leaving with 8:43 to go. It’s not over yet! OK, it probably is, but still.

Biedrins draws a foul on Q and heads to the line. His free throw form makes Ben Wallace look like Mark Price. The results are none too good either: He misses both. Baron’s back.

Curry’s fouled on the entry pass by Jack. That’s 4.

Jack reaches in on the next possession anyway, strips Steph, Q recovers, misses everything. Another 24-second violation.

Stephen Jackson pulls up over Q. 88-70.

Lee oop to Curry, miss. Baron misses a three from up top.

Q misses three.

Offensive foul, Warriors. Nate in for Eddy. Steph with the three over Jack. 88-73. The place is kind of dead, and it seems like the game is about over. In reality, there’s 6:45 to go. Ugh.

Jack over Q. Again.

Lee is stripped by Davis, Ellis steps in from the three-point line, hits the baseline stop and pop. 92-73, Warriors.

Nate misses, Biedrins rebounds, Pietrus catches the pass underneath from Davis, upfakes Lee, gets fouled. Time out. T-shirts are shot into the crowd as the exit begins in earnest.

Pietrus gets his free throws. Miss, hit—and the Warriors lead by 20.

This place is DEAD. What’s even worse than the “fire isiah” chants? Apathy, that’s what. Oh wait, there’s the fire isiah chant. Louder. Louder. LOUDER. OK, maybe the chant is worse.

Marbury hits an entirely irrelevant pair of free throws.

Pietrus, reverse layup from Jack.

Zach, turnover.

Jack, miss three.

Nate, hit three. 95-78.

There’s STILL 4:13 left.

Baron three over JC off the driblle. 98-78. Isn’t it time for Isiah to warn Baron or Jack about driving the lane?

Pietrus, from Baron. It’s a great pass that draws applause from the Garden faithless.

Zach falls down, Steph misses a three. Baron doesn’t. From up top, over Crawford. 103-78, Warriors, with 2:48. Yep, that’s a 25-point lead.

Crawford misses a corner three, Nate loose ball foul, time out—and time to empty the benches. Sort of.

Wilson Chandler! With Mardy, Nate, Lee and Fred Jones. Warriors with Jack (at the line), Kelenna, Andris, Monta and Pietrus. Croshere comes in for Biedrins. Jack hits both.

Fred Jones, driving layup.

Jack misses a three from up top, Nate rebounds. Chandler steps out of bounds. Enter Belinelli for Jack.

Hey, one more Fire Isiah chant. Why not.

Kelenna miss, Nate turnover, Warriors hold. Palming violation on Pietrus.

Collins misses a layup, Fred Jones jumper.

Belinelli miss, Mardy Collins offensive foul. It’s safe to say that he won’t be starting again anytime soon. OK, make that he SHOULDN’T be starting anytime soon.

FIRE ISIAH

Azbuike for three. 108-82

General boos. On the last Knick possession, Nate throws a wild pass out of bounds. What a way to go out. The Warriors dribble out the clock to even more boos. Final score, 108-82. Ugh.

Some numbers: First, the Knicks: Z-Bo finishes with 15 points and 16 boards, none of either coming in the game’s final, uh, 20 minutes. Marbury leads the Knicks in points (18) and minutes (38). Curry has three rebounds in 25 minutes. Q shoots 2 for 9. Nate goes 0 for 6 with three turnovers in almost 19 minutes. The team commits 29 turnovers.

And for the Warriors: Baron finishes with 31 points, seven assists and six boards. Jack ends with 23 points (13 in the 4th) and the same sides. Pietrus has 16 points, six boards and four steals off the bench. The Warriors as a team finish with a mind-boggling 17 steals (yes, seventeen) and win by 26 despite missing 10 free throws and shooting nine of 30 from three (Jack alone is 2 for 10).

POSTGAME

Nellie talks in the hallway leading to the freight elevator rather than the normal spot in front of the visitor’s locker room because HE’S DON NELSON AND HE CAN DO WHATEVER THE F*CK HE WANTS. He doesn’t have a beer in his hand—only the final box. Some assorted quotes for your pleasure:

“Steals, quickness to double team—our rotations were crisp. We just played a pretty good all-around game.”

Someone inevitably asks about Isiah’s fate, and Nellie ain’t havin’ it: “I’m not going to talk about Isiah’s situation. I don’t think it would be appropriate, so don’t even go there.”

He would, however speak about Jack, and the seven games he missed (during which the Warriors went 1-7): “Not to have him was very difficult. I couldn’t do things that I wanted to do.”

A Warrior beatwriter asks him about their three-game win streak—apparently he made some sort of sarcastic comment about their two-game streak after beating Toronto: “We’ll find out at Boston tomorrow. Break up the Warriors!” As he says that last bit, he looks up with a wild light in his eyes and a crazy grin plastered across his face. No wonder he named Jack captain.

In the locker room, Jack himself walks in from the trainer’s room, buck naked, holding two boxes of pizza. “If there’s any ladies in here, close your eyes!” He hands off the boxes, wraps up in a towel.

Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond lurk in the trainer’s room, a T short.

Jack talks in the corner. He’s diplomatic about Isiah, only saying that he idolized him growing up and that he’s not really in a position to judge. Then there’s a question about Marbury and the booing. “I was getting booed in Indiana,” Jack says, “so I know how it feels.” He goes on to say that, at the end of the day, they’re still getting paid to play basketball. “You just gotta be a man about it.”

Baron emerges from the back, clears a path to his locker, and then speaks softly. He goes on for a while about Jack, lauding him in every possible way, mostly because Jack is standing right next to him. They both laugh. Life is good when you win by 26.

Over on the other side, the opposite holds true. The Knicks are catching a 10:45 bus to the airport (they face the Pistons in Detroit tomorrow night—when it rains it pours, remember?), but at 10:25, many guys remain. Q has a crowd around him, others await Z-Bo. When he finally turns and speaks, Zach seems perplexed. Asked about the “fire Isiah” chant, he can only say that he never heard anything like that in Portland. “It was surprising.”

Marbury is the last to talk, the last to appear. So when he finally enters the locker room, one towel wrapped around his waist, another dragging behind him, there’s a crush of 25 people waiting for him. He visibly sags as he sees it, looking over at a nearly dressed Malik Rose as if to say “why me?” He steps into the circle, quietly gets dressed, walks back out to knot his tie. Comes back, dons his jacket, turns to face the music. It’s 10:35. The questions are few, the answers fewer. “It’s tough to lose, period. To lose like that, it’s even tougher.” Someone mentions that Isiah took much of the blame on himself in his postgame talk. Steph begs to differ. “We all have to take the blame. We’re all responsible.” He’s reminded that he said he would assess the season after 10 games. This was Game 10. They’re 2-8, with no help in sight. “We have to revamp,” Marbury says. “We have to go back to the drawing board.” And with that, he exits, leaving the unasked follow-up: Again?