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Freebies for everybody but the New York Knickerbockers!

Don’t panic, Christmas is still ahead

Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The New York Knicks (18-15) came out winners of their 2022-23 season series against the Chicago Bulls (14-18) earning a 2-1 overall record after winning two games on the road at United Center last week and losing at MSG on Friday, 118-117.

After putting eight dubs together through a streak spanning from Dec. 4 to Dec. 20, the Knicks find themselves down 0-2 following their last two games. Things don’t look better when peeping at what is ahead in the schedule, as the Philadelphia 76ers will visit MSG to celebrate Christmas on Sunday with a midday tip-off.

DeMar DeRozan got the rock beyond the three-point line, faced Quentin Grimes, dribbled to the left, pulled up for a mid-range jumper, and swished it through the Knickerbocker net on a cold Friday for New Yorkers and foreigners present at the Garden.

“It’s good! And a foul! With four-tenths of a second remaining... and the Bulls go up by one!”

Without taking anything from the great Deebo, that was a situation easily avoidable and Mike Breen should have never been put in a position to shout those lines to those watching MSG’s broadcast.

Chicago came back from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The Knicks, who went 15-of-26 (57.7 FT%) from the line, allowed them to. This was the second-worst free-throw-shooting outing in terms of efficiency by New York this season after going 8-of-16 (50%) against Cleveland on Oct. 30.

With 6.1 seconds left on the clock and the Knicks up 117-116, Jalen Brunson went to the charity stripe for a couple of shots.

“It’s frustrating. [I] practice it all the time,” Brunson said about those two attempts, both of them missed and followed by a defensive rebound by DeRozan. “I’m confident when I get to the line. Just missed it. I just got to flush it and continue to move on. And just be me and do my routine.”

Brunson had another subpar scoring game, going for just 12 points on a 5-of-15 shooting night. It’s his second consecutive game hitting fewer than 34% of his field goal attempts and only one free-throw shot each time. He dished out nine dimes while limiting his turnovers to just one, but that wasn’t enough when all was said and done.

Another one to grace the rim before JB: Quentin.

Grimes missed a couple of freebies himself with 66 seconds to go and the Knicks still up 115-112. Of course, Nikola Vucevic pulled down the D-board and 13 seconds later Zach LaVine made it a one-point game.

It sucked, more than anything, because Friday’s match felt like an opportunity wasted if only in the career of a certain RJ Barrett.

“RJ being RJ. He was in attack mode for 48 minutes,” Brunson said. “He carried us. Especially when we needed it. We just got to close it out for him.”

Right words, those exiting Brunson’s cavities. Barrett cooked himself a 44-burger at MSG and fell just two points short of matching his career-high of 46 dumped on the Miami Heat last February. He carried his team. He went a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point range. He hit 10-of-13 freebies. He also turned the ball over a team-high six times.

“I was making shots, had it rolling tonight,” said Barrett. “Tonight, I had it going. It’s just frustrating to not get the win. I feel like we did enough things well to win that game, but we came up short,” he added.

This loss is a bit concerning with the Sixers coming to town on Sunday followed by the Dallas Mavericks—the last team to beat the Knicks before their eight-game winning streak—on Tuesday. New York could very well be right in the middle of a four-game skid.

“I think we’re still together. I think we see it as opportunities to learn, opportunities to grow,” Barrett said. “Things can be great one second and bad the next, but it’s not even about that. It’s just, looking at what we did tonight, what we didn’t do enough of, and cleaning that up.”

We’ll see how that goes.

Coach Tom Thibodeau spotted the main issues drowning the Knicks on Friday and presented them after the game. “I just felt like we never got our defense established,” Thibodeau said.

“It was an offensive game. Hard to slow those types of guys down once they get their confidence going as they did. Then they had some timely rebounds, and we missed some free throws,” said Thibodeau. “Things can change real fast in this league.”

Barrett seemed to agree with his coach, saying that “DeMar, that’s kind of what he does,” and that the Knicks “couldn’t let it get to that point.”

To be fair, sitting sixth in the East ain’t that bad a thing. It’s been 33 games to date and the Knicks have already reached 18 wins. In the past 20 seasons, and looking at the 33-game mark, the Knicks reached that win figure that early only in 2011 (19-14 record) and 2013 (23-10).

As the song goes:

Have a holly, jolly Christmas
It’s the best time of the year
I don’t know if there’ll be a win
but have a cup of cheer