Visit from powerhouse Warriors coming at tough time for scuffling Knicks

On one side, there will be an example of regression to the mean. On the other, will be the exact opposite.

When the Knicks host the powerhouse Warriors on Tuesday night at the Garden, it will feature two of the NBA’s big brands — and two teams headed in opposite directions. For both franchises, it is more along the lines of what the last decade has represented, overwhelming success for the West Coast dynamo after two down years and concerning struggles for Tom Thibodeau’s team that hasn’t built off of last year’s surprising playoff season.

The timing of the Warriors’ annual visit to New York City is unfortunate for the scuffling Knicks. They are falling apart at the seams. They have lost three straight games and six of their last seven to fall a season-low three games under .500 at 12-15. They will be without their best young player, starting guard RJ Barrett, and key reserve Obi Toppin, who was just starting to come into his own. Both are in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol, hamstringing a roster that needs all the help it can get. Their absences are only increasing the degree of difficulty for the Knicks.

Steph Curry and the Warriors visit Julius Randle’s Knicks on Tuesday.
Getty Images, AP

“Anytime you fall short there’s disappointment,” Thibodeau said after Sunday’s 15-point loss to the defending NBA champion Bucks without three key members of his rotation (Alec Burks was out for the birth of a child). “You want to take the things you learn from the game and try to move forward and fix the things you have to do better. I think anytime you’re shorthanded, you have to think about things you can’t underestimate how hard you have to play rebounding-wise and defensively and that sort of thing. … So that’s what you try to do — make sure you’re making the right plays, be tied together defensively, tighten things up on the defensive end. Our margin of error is real small right now.”

The Knicks will get Burks back. But even at full strength, the Knicks were headed in the wrong direction, unable to defend their home court or make up for the step back by last year’s Most Improved Player award winner, Julius Randle. The two big offseason acquisitions, Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, have flopped with Walker now stapled to the bench. Adding insult to their woes, the Knicks may have to watch history. Stephen Curry needs two 3-pointers to break Ray Allen’s career mark of 2,970 3-pointers made. There is a chance he will set the mark at the Garden against the team that wanted to draft him all those years ago, but had to settle for Jordan Hill when the Warriors selected Curry the pick before the Knicks’ selection.

Contrast the Knicks’ issues to the success of the Warriors, who have yet to get All-Star guard Klay Thompson or last year’s first-round pick, James Wiseman, on the floor due to injuries, but nevertheless own the second-best record in the NBA at 22-5. Curry is having one of the best years of his almost certain Hall of Fame career, averaging 27.1 points on 40.4 percent shooting from 3-point range and 6.3 assists, and Golden State’s player development has shined. Jordan Poole, a 2019 late first-round pick, has emerged as a key player and previously underwhelming overall No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins has blossomed.

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Eventually, Thompson and Wiseman will return, making the Warriors even more dangerous. After last season’s dismal campaign, they have returned to NBA prominence. The Knicks, meanwhile, don’t have the same room for improvement. At the moment, they are just trying to survive.

Artmotion U.S.A

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