51 Free Throws.
It was the story of the game in the Knicks locker room afterwards as the refs gave Portland every close call in the 2nd half to give them momentum in a game the Trail Blazers won in overtime, 132-129. At Madison Square Garden on a Saturday night.
Portland was 38-51 from the line; the Knicks 24-28 from the line.
“51 free throws.. I can’t recall someone getting 28 in a game,” said coach Tom Thibodeau on the free-throw disparity.
Still the Knicks almost won — as Jalen Brunson drove into the lane with the clock running out in regulation in a tie game — but his short jumper rolled in and out at the buzzer. In the OT, Anfernee Simons — who finished with 38 points — hit two early 3’s, and Jusuf Nurkic hit two big inside shots — one after an offensive rebound by Josh Hart (who had 19 rebounds)– to put Portland up by 8.
The Knicks fall to 9-10; Portland improves to 11-8.
1. Free Throw Disparity Took Knick Momentum Away
The Knicks led by 14 in the 2nd quarter but then Portland seemed to start getting the benefit of the doubt on calls on every other play — and that sapped Knicks momentum. Jerami Grant would get the ball and — draw a foul on an arguable call. Grant to the line. On the other end, RJ Barrett would roll to the hoop and be sent down — no foul. Grant scored 44 points on 10-20 shooting, and an incredible 21-28 from the free throw line.
“I have to look at the tape and see what we can do better,” said Julius Randle. “51 is a lot of free throws though.”
On Grant’s 28 free throws, coach Tom Thibodeau was non plused: “Some seemed he got hit on; others — if you’re looking for the contact… they’re not going to give you that unless you’re attacking the rim. If you’re fading away from the basket, you’re not going to get those calls.”
2. Barrett Strong Drives Late
RJ Barrett started off with a poor shooting game again, and finished 6-22 (1-7 from 3; 6-8 in free throws) for 19 points — a stark contrast to Simons’ 38 points on 13-25 shooting (4-13 from 3, 8-8 in free throws).
But Barrett played well late — especially in the 4th quarter when he made determined drives to the basket for big buckets that brought the Knicks back.
Barrett also penetrated and passed well for buckets — he finished with 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Earlier Barrett kept making drives to the basket, and putting the ball up looking for a call that he didn’t get.
“They were getting everything,” said RJ Barrett afterwards. “I thought I could get some. You know what I’m saying? I mean Sheesh. Second half I think I started going in there more aggressively trying to finish; played a little better.”
3. Jericho BEASTED Again
He was the talk of the night amongst Knick fans and players again.
He can sky to the moon — and did on key plays in the 4th quarter, to block or challenge shots inside, and grab rebounds. Looking at the box score it’s hard to believe he only played 13 minutes — scoring 5 points on 2-3 shooting with 2 rebounds and 2 blocks.
JERICHO SIMS JUMPER???
Look at that smile pic.twitter.com/b92qks7Hq2
— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) November 26, 2022
4. Mitch Played BIG Down Low
Mitchell Robinson is starting to shake off the rust of the injury layoff — and made a big impact in this game — both on defense and on some key inside slams late. Robinson had 12 points on 6-7 shooting with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in 23 minutes.
DEFENSE ➡️ OFFENSE pic.twitter.com/2oWsEcRNeW
— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) November 26, 2022
5. Hart Got 19 Rebounds
With Damian Lillard out injured, Josh Hart is getting the start at point guard for Portland. He came into the game averaging 9.6 ppg, 4.3 assists, and 8.1 rebounds. The 6’5 guard is the best rebounding guard in the NBA and he showed it in this game — getting 19 rebounds, his career high.
Hart started his career with the Lakers, then played 3 years with New Orleans, before the last 2 years in Portland.
Hart’s rebounding was a big factor in the game. Portland outrebounded the Knicks 47-44 but got key offensive rebounds in clutch situations.
“It was really a lot of the fouling and the offensive rebounds that they got, that was the story of the game right there,” said RJ Barrett afterwards.
“When the ball goes up, if you Stand and Stare it’s going to be a problem,” lectured Tom Thibodeau. “If you turn and check… And there has to be a physicality to it. ”
6. Brunson Led Late
Jalen Brunson (32 points) did a good job running the team, especially late when he took over and the Knicks pulled out of a 6-pt deficit early in the 4th to take the lead.
The Knicks 4th quarter was highlighted by strong RJ Barrett drives, good defense by Julius Randle to create turnovers, Jericho Sims and then Mitchell Robinson beasting inside, Quentin Grimes playing efficiently, excellent defense and shooting by Immanuel Quickley (18 pts; 4-10 from 3), and Brunson leading the charge.
The Knicks led 116-114 with just over 10 seconds left when Anfernee Simons got the ball and — was fouled — given the benefit of the doubt on a close call. NY challenged the foul call and lost the challenge; Simons made both free throws to tie the game.
With 9 seconds left and the Knicks with no timeouts, Jalen Brunson brought the ball up full court, and penetrated into the lane for a 5 footer that rolled in and out for OT.