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The injury to rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley haunted the Knicks in their home opener Saturday — a dispiriting 109-89 loss to the 76ers.
The Knicks’ play at point guard was a shambles against the Sixers. Starter Elfrid Payton was brutal. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau tapped Dennis Smith Jr. as the backup after not playing him in the opener against the Pacers.
Smith didn’t help matters. At times, Thibodeau went with Alec Burks at the point, but nothing seemed to get the offense jelling the way Quickley had.
“In term of the point guards, the main responsibility is to keep us organized, run the team, play great defense, share the ball,’’ Thibodeau said. “As a team, we struggled. We got to do better.’’
Who would have thought the loss of Quickley, the 25th pick in the draft, would impact the offense so deeply? He suffered a hip pointer in the opener Wednesday and looks doubtful for Sunday’s Garden match against the Bucks, with Thibodeau saying he’s “most likely out.’’
Payton, a surprise to re-sign last month, had one of his worst games as a Knick, going 0-for-6 — including 0-for-3 from 3-point range — and dishing out just one assist. He was a minus-15.
After being bypassed in the season-opening loss at Indiana, Smith was put in late in the first quarter. He finished the night 1-for-5, missing both of his 3-point attempts in 17 minutes. Thibodeau used Frank Ntilikina to clean up in the final 2:28 of the blowout loss, and he missed his lone 3-pointer.
Adding it all up, the Knicks’ three point guards — Payton, Smith and Ntilikina — combined to shoot 1-for-12. On the night, the Knicks shot just 8-for-29 from 3-point range — a predicted weak point.
After the game, Payton and Ntilikina came back onto the court to put up extra shots.
“It shows we have a lot of work to do,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’re still evaluating what fits best and gives us our best chance. The shooting piece is important. We have to continue to work on it. The 3 is a big part of our league. It’s an area we’ll work on.’’
The point-guard malaise made Julius Randle’s 25-point night go to waste. Randle, who racked up 18 points in the first half, also tried to be a ball hander at times, but he forced a lot in the second half and committed four turnovers to three assists. Randle posted nine assists in the opener.
Asked if he’s trying extra hard to be a playmaker, the power forward said: “It’s positionless basketball. I’m trying to play the right way and move the ball. That’s all that matters.’’
With Austin Rivers out indefinitely and if Quickley continues to miss games, Thibodeau does have one other option — former Auburn star Jared Harper, who played in the final preseason game and shot well from 3-point range. He’s on a two-way contract and might be the best pure-shooting point guard on the roster.
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