Obi Toppin Credit: Bill Moore photo

On a night at Madison Square Garden when the basketball world celebrated Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry setting the NBA’s new all-time 3-pointers made mark, it was a somber occasion for the Knicks. The 105-96 defeat on Tuesday night was the Knicks’ fourth in a row and seventh in their last eight, dropping them to 12-16, 5-10 at home and in the 12th spot in the 15-team Eastern Conference.

Right now they are a shell of the team that went 41-31 last season and were the No. 4 seed in the conference. Weakened as many teams across the league have been by players being placed in COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the Knicks were without guard RJ Barrett, forward Obi Toppin and rookie guard Quentin Grimes, who scored a career- and team-high 27 points on Sunday at MSG in his first regular season start in a 112-97 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Knicks ended their loss to Golden State with NBA rankings of 25th in points per game (105.5), 16th in opponents points per game (107.3) and a telling 28th out of league’s 30 teams in assists per game (21.4). Their last victory (121-109) came 10 days ago in San Antonio versus the Spurs and they are back in Texas tonight to face the Houston Rockets.

Rotation changes and schematic alterations by head coach Tom Thibodeau have yielded positive outcomes. A reasonable summation suggests the Knicks lack enough high impact players to reverse their current trajectory. The one glaring deficiency of the team that has been problematic for the better part of the past decade is a top-tier, two-way lead guard. The Knicks failed to successfully address the position this past off-season and it has manifested in the offense being stagnant and the defense left vulnerable at opponents’ point of attack.

Team president Leon Rose hoped to squeeze a good year out of Kemba Walker and signed the 31-year-old Bronx native to a two-year, $17.9 million deal in August. But Walker was removed from the starting lineup and rotation by Thibodeau due to minimal production at the end of November, and apparently will be anchored to the bench as long as he is a Knick. 

If they have any intent on competing for a playoff spot, the Knicks’ decision makers, namely Rose, must strongly consider a trade to acquire a difference-making point guard long before the Feb. 10, 2022 NBA trade deadline. The Sacramento Kings De’Aaron Fox is a player long-rumored to be a primary target of the Knicks. As for Curry’s historic night at the Garden, the irony was inescapable.

The Knicks were set to draft the transformative point-guard with the eighth overall pick in 2009 but instead he was scooped up by the Warriors at No. 7. Twelve years into his career, the remarkable 33-year-old babyfaced basketball assassin has reshaped how the game is played.

The three-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP  has made the 3-point shot the most dangerous weapon in the game. Dropping five of 14 attempts against the Knicks on Tuesday, Curry broke the all-time record at 7:33 of the first quarter when he netted a 28-footer. It was his 2,974th, surpassing Ray Allen who was in attendance. Reggie Miller, who held the record before Allen, was also in the building as part of the TNT broadcast team.

“I had great support here,” said Curry during an interview with TNT after the game. “This arena, I can’t express how much of an honor that was for the reaction here on the road and the appreciation for this milestone…a very, very, very special night.” 

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