The Knicks were 19-23 from the foul line in Thursday night's win over the Boston Celtics. Good for 83%, this was uncharacteristic as they haven’t been good from the line to start the new year. In January, they shot 74.9% as a team, the fifth-worst in the NBA. This metric sounds even worse when you find out they are taking the ninth most free throws per game this month.
It’s been pretty brutal this month as they’ve missed six or more free throws in nine of the 13 games so far. They’ve been able to get away with a good record but bad tendencies tend to catch up to teams. One game they will be kicking themselves about this month is the 123-121 overtime loss in MSG to the Toronto Raptors. They shot 28-35 from the line including a key Jalen Brunson miss in regulation that would’ve put the Knicks up two with 18 seconds left.
With the solid January record, the foul shooting has been swept under the rug.
Here are some of the Knick's close victories this month and what they shot from the line:
(18-26) in a 112-108 win over the Raptors
(22-31) in a 112-108 win over the Wizards
(14-21) in the 105-103 win over the Cavaliers
These were games the Knicks were able to win despite the poor foul shooting. This is not a sustainable model and with a plus two-point differential, it’s likely to come back and hurt them. The wins are great but it’s still important to point out the flaws and work on improving them. Based on the close games this league sees nightly, New York probably won’t win three games again like that shooting 69.2%. For the season, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are both under 75% foul shooters, a number that has to improve.
Clutch foul shooting vs Celtics
Hopefully beating Boston can give these Knicks confidence from the line. From the fourth quarter through overtime, the Knicks hit eight of nine free throws. None two bigger than RJ Barrett’s free throws with five seconds left in overtime to put the Knicks up 120-117. Randle, Brunson, and Barrett combined to go 14-17 from the charity stripe.
Boston's downfall was Jaylen Brown missing two free throws down 118-117 with seven seconds left.
The Knicks are talented and can beat any team on a game-to-game basis. With aspirations of making and performing well in the playoffs, they’ll need to improve in the little areas. A great foul-shooting performance against Boston is what needs to become the norm rather than an outlier.