Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga rise up in Warriors’ road win over Knicks

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NEW YORK — Thursday night, the Golden State Warriors’ two most recent lottery picks, selected in the same 2021 NBA Draft, combined for a defining sequence in one of the franchise’s better wins during this turbulent season that’s steadying back in the positive direction.

The Warriors led 14-0 in a blink. The New York Knicks could never fully flip the game in their direction. But they threatened at various pivot points and the engaged crowd responded on the night’s largest possessions, rising when it felt like the Knicks were on a run.

One of those moments came with just under six minutes left. The Knicks had cut it to five. The crowd was into it. Moses Moody found himself guarding Alec Burks after a switch. Burks lefty dribbled into a stop, pump and pop from the right elbow, a midranger that he very rarely gets blocked.

Moody stuck with him, didn’t bite on the pump and then reached his rangy left arm in the air to block Burks’ jumper so well that it went about 3 feet and into his lap. He then hit it ahead to Jonathan Kuminga, a transition dynamo. Kuminga sprinted ahead of two Knicks and bullied right through a third, Jalen Brunson, finishing an and-1 layup to bump the Warriors back up seven.

After the Warriors finished off the Knicks, 110-99, Steve Kerr entered the locker room and immediately singled out Moody, according to Steph Curry. He told the team how important Moody’s individual defense on Brunson was to the night’s result. Kerr then told the media the same 15 minutes later, rerouting a generic question about the team’s overall performance to the individual.

“Moses did a great job of making it as difficult as possible without fouling,” Kerr said. “Forcing him into tough shots. That was the key.”

Moody said he learned of the assignment at the team’s morning meeting at their Manhattan hotel. The Warriors wanted to put size on Brunson. Moody is 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan. Quicker guards have given him trouble, zipping past because of slower lateral movement. But Brunson succeeds with power and craft. Moody is big, strong, patient and crafty himself.

“You don’t want to have a smaller defender on Brunson because he’s so strong and can bully you in the paint,” Kerr said.

“I feel like my length kind of limits the midrange game,” Moody said. “Being able to contest those midrange shots while having my body weight somewhere else — my weight in one place and my arm in another.”

Here are a few of the possessions where Moody gave Brunson some trouble, bothering him into misses.

Moody was given the opportunity only because Andrew Wiggins is away from the team dealing with a personal matter. Wiggins likely would’ve received the Brunson assignment had he been around and Moody would presumably have stayed out of the crowded rotation.

But he’s the temporary starter in Wiggins’ absence and backed up a solid offensive game in Washington, D.C., with the most impactful defensive game of his young career. Until Wiggins returns — and both publicly and privately they’ve said they expect him back — Moody has an opportunity to make a continued case for regular playing time.

But he has performed well in roles small and large (even in the playoffs) at several other moments through his first three seasons only to see the playing time slip away. He’s been regularly buried behind Wiggins, Klay Thompson, Brandin Podziemski, Chris Paul, Kuminga and Gary Payton II this season.

“It’s real life,” Moody said. “Different things happen. You gotta be able to keep your head, control your emotions. All my friends are in that space where they’re leaving college, trying to figure out life. Everybody’s going through different adversities. Who am I to think I should have an easy road to whatever I want? It’s just kind of how it goes.”

Moody’s contribution against the Knicks was of the quieter, subtle variety. He finished a game-high plus-23.

Kuminga’s night was louder. He had 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting, which gives him 46 points on 22-of-32 shooting the past two games, lighting back up after a mini quiet spell. Only one of those 32 shots was an attempted 3. Almost everything has come at the rim and occasionally from the short midrange.

“He should live in the paint,” Kerr said. “He’s done a great job this last six weeks as he’s elevated his game and broken through attacking the rim and keeping his focus on scoring in the paint.”

Kuminga is still willing to take the 3. He was left wide open for a corner 3 with two minutes left, Curry kicked it to him, and he took it. But mostly he’s decided to cut it out of his shot diet to almost exclusively attack open space when he gets it.

“There will come down to moments where I’ll take a 3,” Kuminga said. “Putting pressure at the rim every time, people are going to foul me or score easy. That gives us energy. If we need 3s, we got different shooters that (do that). But there obviously needs to be somebody else that does something different than shooting 3s.”

This was the Warriors’ seventh straight road win. They’re 10-2 in their last 12 and 31-27 overall, a season-high four games over .500. They’re within two games of the eighth seed, 2 1/2 games from the seventh and three games from sixth.

The confidence within the locker room is growing. That’s normal during a winning streak. But it’s also mattered how they’re winning these games. The younger layer of the roster continues to elevate when given opportunity.

“That is not lost on me,” Kerr said. “We’re interested in winning every game but also in trying to fortify our future as a franchise.”

“They’re showing it,” Curry said. “We’ve needed guys to step and be consistent, and that’s what they’re doing. We have to keep stacking these performances together. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win every game, but the identity. That’s what I always say: Are we forming an identity? I think we are.”

(Photo: Mike Stobe / Getty Images)





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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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