New York officially opened the 2023-24 season at home against Boston on Monday and lost 108-104. It was frustrating, even for Opening Night, given how the Knicks trailed at halftime and came back to lead by as many as six late in the fourth quarter.
And it would have been a win…if not for those meddling kid-…er, free throws. For whatever reason, the Knicks just couldn’t get it done at the charity stripe. They shot only 14 of 26 from the line.
Win or lose, that’s unacceptable.
Now, to be fair, missed free throws aren’t the only reason the Knicks lost their first game of the season. The team shot just 37.1% from the field compared to the Celtics’ seemingly automatic 48.1%. It’s also no reason to panic and, to be honest, it’s probably good that the Knicks lost. No need to start another season with yet another “Bing-Bong” game only for that to be the peak of the year.
Except this has been a long-running problem for the Knicks. They ranked 22nd in team free throw percentage (FT%). The Knicks also lost 15 games by ten or fewer points last season where simply making their free throws would have forced overtime or changed the outcome. We’ll be adults and not assume they would have won all 15, but between six and eight seems a reasonable estimate.
Additionally, the Knicks haven’t ranked higher than 14th in team FT% in the last five years. In the last three, they’ve ranked 14th, 26th, and 22nd. Looks like we can finally criticize Leon Rose for something other than his almost pathological media avoidance.
And like we said at the beginning. Wednesday’s loss to Boston was the first game of the season and not a bad omen. In fact, it was pretty encouraging to see the Knicks storm back in the second half after both Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson struggled to shoot a combined 11 for 43 on the night.
But if Quentin Grimes—who shot nearly 80% from the line last year—can’t convert a rare four-point play? Maybe coach Tom Thibodeau needs to devote the next practice to simple free throw drills.