Warriors 83, Knicks 81

Golden State Warriors guard Jason Richardson tossed a pass for forward Mike Dunleavy that zipped right through Dunleavy's fingertips. Point guard Baron Davis threw a soft, no-look pitch toward the rim, but backup center Chris Taft never jumped, and he watched as the ball scraped the side of the rim. As the Warriors continued to attempt more alley-oops that were more oops than anything else, Coach Mike Montgomery began to lose it.

So when Dunleavy lobbed a pass, intended for teammate Mickael Pietrus that banged hard off the glass, Montgomery finally dropped his hands, dropped a few coarse words, then dropped in a seat toward the end of the bench, shaking his head with a scrunched-up look of frustration and confusion. This was just in the first 10 minutes of Sunday's game against the Knicks.

The Warriors continued to make head-scratching passes until the end. They also missed 20 of 30 three-point attempts and 17 of 32 free throws, but were still able to fend off the Knicks, 83-81, at Madison Square Garden.

Warriors forward Troy Murphy knows this can't last forever. "Coach Montgomery is going to have a heart attack sooner of later if that stuff keeps going on," Murphy said after scoring 17 points with 10 rebounds.

No NBA franchise has currently gone longer without making a playoff appearance than the Warriors, who haven't played more than 82 games since 1994 -- right before the Washington Bullets snatched Chris Webber away from the Bay Area.

Since then, the Warriors have endured the failed promise of former No. 1 pick Joe Smith; Latrell Sprewell's choking of then-coach P.J. Carlesimo and subsequent 68-game suspension; and being teased with a run at the playoffs inspired by Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison (who have since left and led the Wizards to the postseason).

"In years past, we'd expect to win 20-25 games. People were making plans for April," said Murphy, in his fifth season with the Warriors. "Now, we hope to be in the playoff hunt. We're very optimistic this year that we're going to have a good season."

The Curse of the Webbino still hovers over the Warriors, but they have hope that it will finally be reversed with the addition of Davis, the stocky floor general with considerable confidence and all-star credentials.

Davis arrived from New Orleans at the trade deadline last February and led the Warriors to an 18-10 finish to the regular season, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 assists. "Huge, huge, huge impact," said Chris Mullin, the Warriors' executive vice president of basketball operations. "He's the key for us."

Davis's problem, however, is staying healthy. He hasn't played more than 67 games in any of the past three seasons and he missed the Warriors' second game of the season -- a 91-85 loss against Utah on Friday -- with a strained left hamstring.

Davis understands his value to the Warriors. "I've got to be the rock for this team," he said.

But he said he had added incentive to return to action yesterday. "The Garden, man. The Garden." He finished the game with 16 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds in 37 minutes -- much more time than Montgomery intended.

Davis and the Warriors added to the misery of Knicks Coach Larry Brown, who, after three tries is still in search of his first win with his new team. In an attempt to get his fundamentally unsound team going, Brown went with a lineup of three rookies -- David Lee, Channing Frye, Nate Robinson -- and Trevor Ariza, a second-year player, in the second half.

The youngsters helped turn a five-point deficit into a three-point lead, but when Brown sat them, the Warriors went on a 12-1 run and seized control of the game. Richardson, who had a game-high 24 points, made a three-pointer from 28 feet as the shot clock wound down to give his team a 76-74 lead.

"That's the kind of shot you want," Richardson said. "When you're down, and you need a big shot. I love to be in that position."

Veteran point guard Derek Fisher, who went to the playoffs eight consecutive seasons with the L.A. Lakers before signing with Golden State last season, said the Warriors found a way to win a game that they lost too often last season.

Montgomery would not get too far ahead of himself.

"I think we played three games and the playoffs are the furthest thing from our minds," said Montgomery, in his second season after an 18-year-run at Stanford University. "We've got to learn how to play good basketball."

And cut back on the wild passes. Holding onto a five-point lead in the final minute, Davis swiped the ball from Robinson, but instead of letting the clock run down, he tossed a lob for Richardson. Richardson could not finish the play.

"They didn't do that too much at Stanford," Murphy said with a laugh. "We run, fling threes, throw lobs. Real loosey-goosey. Sometimes it works well, sometimes we get waxed. But it's entertaining."

Baron Davis, driving past Stephon Marbury, energized the Warriors upon joining the team late last season.