Turns out missing free throws comes at a price.
Funnily enough, the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics attempted the same amount of freebies on Wednesday’s season-opening matchup inside MSG: 26 each. Not so funny: the Knicks’ shots kissed net 14 times to Bostons’ 22 swishes.
Even less funny: the Knicks played a reasonably good basketball game against the best team in the East. If not that, they at least kept the thing alive until deep into the final stanza, which is more than enough for a team built on continuity and depth and still a move or four away from putting together a roster worth labeling a “contender.”
The overall shooting wasn’t extraordinary (37.1% from the floor) but the pace was burning (97 field-goal attempts) and the three-pointers fell at a good enough rate (43.9%).
If only the rim did not have a lid on it!
“The basket had a lid on it,” Julius Randle was quick to point out after the game to raise awareness of this potential leaguewide issue and put the NBA office on notice. “Those are shots that we’ll take and we’ll make.”
Randle shot 5-of-22. Jalen Brunson went 6-of-21. Quentin Grimes and Mitchell Robinson combined to shoot 5-of-11. Among the Knicks starters, only RJ Barrett scored more than 15 points (he ended with 24).
“I can count three or four (shots) around the rim for me, personally, that—those are bunnies that I usually make,” Randle acknowledged. “Nights like these happen. We’ll bounce back. I’ll bounce back. We’ll be fine.”
Fine we’ll be. We hope, that is.
It looked like Brunson couldn’t find the tin opener on Wednesday, nor improve the Knicks’ grip on the proverbial Celtics’ rim-shaped lid.
In Boston’s defense, it must be said that those lids were fresh, slippery, and shiny. That’s what you get when you trade for Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday to build a six-man roster in a sport in which you only can play five men at any given moment. Quite audacious!
“Gotta be better, way better,” Brunson said after New York kicked the winning can down the road and started the year 0-1, leaving their first win of the season on the to-do list for the trip to Atlanta on Friday.
“There’s a lot of positives to take from it, but (we) still gotta learn,” Brunson added.
The first game of the Immanuel Quickley 6MOTY run:— Teg (@IQfor3) October 26, 2023
5-7 3P pic.twitter.com/Jp9dR5PHpi
With Malcolm Brogdon now hooping in the West Coast, no pine-riding Leprechaun bagged double-digit points off the bench, led by Al Horford’s eight.
With Immanuel Quickley still a New York Knick, the perennial sixth man was one of the reasons (if not the main) for the hosts to stay in the game until late. IQ scored 24 points, pulled down six boards, dished out four dimes, and committed a theft. Too bad he couldn’t steal a deal from our beloved Knicks. Sheesh...
“It shows how deep we are as a team,’ Brunson answered when asked about the contributions of the bench mob on the dark Wednesday. “Those guys played phenomenal. They kept us in that game. We have a deep bench, and the things that they’re able to do help us win a lot of games.”
The average statline of the Knicks bench: 7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists. The one put up by the starters: 13.2 points, 4.8 boards, 3.2 dimes. Now, of course, consider the four-man bench played an average of 23 minutes to the starters’ 30.
Quickley sounded as Quickley as ever after the loss.
“I always try to bring energy,” Quickley said. “Try to add something to the game, add something to the team. Most of the time I’m just having fun.”
IQ added an interesting comment, saying he just tries to “inspire others,” to ”have fun,” but also just to “send a message, get us going, things like that.” Message sent, only on late delivery to Leon Rose’s deaf ears and to the chagrin of many Knicks fanatics out there.
"I look at the mental errors, we've got to clean that up"— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) October 26, 2023
Tom Thibodeau on the issues closing down the stretch, challenges Kristraps Porzingis presented & message to his team following #Knicks loss to Celtics in season opener
READ: https://t.co/luVeovHeex pic.twitter.com/hjmkACrMK4
For what Tom Thibodeau is and has us accustomed to, he was rather happy with the performance of the team, one that had the Knicks leading the game by six with around four minutes left to play.
But of course, they couldn’t buy a freebie throughout the game, and that cost them the affair, one in which the Celtics went 15-5 to close the matchup in a come-from-behind victory that had them trailing 93-99 by the time Derrick White dumped a couple of free-throw shots on the Knicks with 3:56 to go.
“I thought the start of the game hurt us, and then I thought the second, third, and fourth we played better,” Thibodeau said. “It’s still choppy, we’re working through things, but we have to be ready and alert.”
There are only 48 hours of reflection before 24 hours of madness as the Knicks embark on a three-game road trip with back-to-back games in Atlanta and New Orleans next.
"I hold myself to a higher standard."— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) October 26, 2023
Jalen Brunson was asked if any of his or the Knicks' mistakes were attributable to opening night: pic.twitter.com/R43CkrE8l0
“I hold myself to a higher standard,” Brunson said. “I just have to be better no matter what night it is.”
In a very ominous way, Thibodeau said before the game that New York’s history “is that we get better as the year goes along.”
Let’s see how long it takes for the Knicks to start winning games. Next stop, 1 State Farm Drive, Atlanta, GA. Tip-off set at 7:30 p.m. ET. Don’t miss it.