Black Eye on Black Friday: Thibodeau rues Knicks giving up 51 FTs in OT loss to Lillard-less Blazers

Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks

File this latest New York Knicks loss in the games that got away.

Without Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers outworked the Knicks and made a living at the free throw line to escape with a 132-129 overtime win on Black Friday at Madison Square Garden.

Jerami Grant shot a franchise-best 28 free throws, making 21 of them en route to a career-high 44 points to pace the Trail Blazers. Anfernee Simons added a season-high 38 points, extending his longest streak of 20-plus scoring games to eighth in his young career. Jusuf Nurkic flirted with a triple double — 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists.

The Portland trio combined for 102 points on 30 of 57 shots.

Josh Hart joined the party by grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds to go with 10 points for his double-double of the season before fouling out.

It was an inexcusable poor effort for the Knicks, who enjoyed three days between this game and the last of a grueling but surprisingly successful 3-2 road trip.

“You got to know your opponent well and then you also got to factor in how this game is (being officiated). Is it a physical game? Is it a game that’s being called tight? And then we have to adjust. We didn’t adjust. Fifty-one free throws? I can’t recall someone getting 28 in a game.”

Tom Thibodeau postgame via MSG Network

Grant alone matched the whole Knicks team’s total free-throw attempts. The Knicks missed only four, but three came at crucial junctures — one by the struggling RJ Barrett near the end of the regulation that could have been a difference-maker and another two by Mitchell Robinson in the overtime.

The Knicks went up by 14 points in the second quarter but allowed the Trail Blazers to hang around, with Grant sinking 10 of 12 foul shots. Portland’s confidence grew from there.

Grant dominated every defender the Knicks threw at him — overpowering the smaller Barrett, outworking former All-Star Julius Randle, and outsmarting the inexperienced Obi Toppin — on a memorable career night at the iconic Garden floor.

Immanuel Quickley, who led the Knicks bench with 18 points, four rebounds, and five assists, agreed with Thibodeau’s assessment.

“[We’re] definitely frustrated and you got to find a way to adjust [to the officiating], and I don’t think that’s what we did. We tried to play aggressively, trying to play physical, but we couldn’t get away with it [Friday night]. You got to adjust as the game goes on.”

Immanuel Quickley postgame via MSG Network

Jalen Brunson’s second straight 30-point effort went down the drain after he missed a floater at the end of the regulation. He led the Knicks with 32 points on 22 shots, going perfect 9 for 9 from the line, with five rebounds and four assists. But that missed floater haunted him.

Brunson’s leadership and accountability haven’t rubbed on Barrett, who brushed off another poor shooting night (19 points on 6 of 22 field goals) and instead directed his aim at officiating.

“[Portland] was getting everything. I thought I could get some [calls]. Sheesh!”

RJ Barrett via MSG Network

His efficient 25-point game in the Knicks’ lone win (against Oklahoma City) in their last four games appears to be just a blip. Over his last seven games, Barrett is a dreadful 31.6 percent from the field (36 of 114 field goals) and 16.7 percent frown downtown.

“Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”

RJ Barrett via NY Post

Nope. It’s not fine, especially after the Knicks signed him to the largest contract in franchise history and missed out on three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who is having an MVP-caliber season at age 26.

Barrett has to shape up. The Knicks have to be better in their decision-making and execution.

Or, before they know it, they might be filing this season as their last one playing together.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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