One area the New York Knicks struggled in this season was free throw shooting.
They slotted in 22nd overall at 76.1 percent. What makes this number look even worse is they were third in the NBA for free throw attempts per game. For a Knicks team that finished 20th in field goal percentage and 19th in three-point percentage, the foul line is where they should’ve picked up easy points.
Often, foul shooting ends up being a huge difference-maker in high-leverage games. Just ask the Toronto Raptors about when they lost by four at home a few weeks to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in and shot 18-of-36 from the foul line.
Free-throw shooting vs Cleveland:
Despite having a 3-1 series lead, the Knicks’ foul shooting hasn’t been consistent.
The good (games 1 & 2)
Game one of this series ended up being decided at the foul line. Quentin Grimes stepped up to the stripe and hit two foul shots to ice the game and win 101-97. New York shot 19-of-22 from the line with at least seven players making two foul shots.
Game two saw the Knicks shoot a very respectable 25-of-30 from the line. Those 25 points didn’t seem to matter much as Cleveland laid the smackdown, winning 107-90.
The bad (games 3 & 4)
The third game of the series would feature the Knicks hitting 11-of-18 (61%) free throws. This didn’t matter much as New York would win by 20, with foul shots not playing much of a factor.
In game four, the Knicks hit just 18-of-28 (64%) foul shots. RJ Barrett would miss two free throws early on, but they were able to recover and go 6-of-7 from the line in the first after that. Holding a seven-point lead after the first, those six points were keeping the Knicks on top.
The second quarter saw them hit 3-of-5 free throws, and going 9-of-12 from the line helped New York bring a 54-45 lead into halftime.
A 4-of-7 third quarter at the line mixed with poor shooting altogether allowed Cleveland to have a 26-19 quarter and only be down two going into the fourth.
They would knock down 5-of-7 free throws in the fourth, and a 29-22 fourth-quarter response helped secure a 3-1 series lead.
Foul shooting has yet to really hurt the Knicks in this series, and who knows how game one plays out if Grimes doesn’t hit those free throws. Though it hasn’t played a major factor down the stretch besides game one, it can’t be ignored that the Knicks went 44-of-52 (84.6%) in games one and two and then went 29-of-46 (63%) in games three and four.
Maybe it’s just being hyped up for playoff ball in the garden, but the Knicks shot 76.9 percent from the foul line at home this season compared to 75.4 percent on the road. Nonetheless, this is something they will have to figure out because close games are bound to happen with free throw shooting becoming key.
At the time of writing, New York is third in the playoffs in free throw attempts per game. They do a good job drawing contact and getting themselves free looks. Can they turn those unguarded 15-footers into easy points when it counts will be the story to monitor.
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