Jalen Brunson had another tough shooting night on Friday, but his misses from the free-throw line proved most costly for the Knicks.
The guard stepped to the charity stripe with 6.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Knicks holding a one-point lead, but he missed both free throws, opening the door for the Bulls to pull out a stunning 118-117 victory at the Garden.
“It’s frustrating,” said Brunson, who finished 1-for-4 from the line. “Practice it all the time. I’m confident when I get to the line. Just missed it.”
Brunson entered the night shooting 89.1 percent from the line this season.
Quentin Grimes also missed a pair of free throws with 1:06 left that came back to cost the Knicks on a night when they shot 15-for-26 on free throws as a team.
For Brunson, the misses loomed large in his second straight tough game. He shot 5-for-15 from the field for 12 points and nine assists, a game after shooting 3-for-14 from the field for seven points and 12 assists Wednesday in a loss to the Raptors.
“Just go back to the gym and keep my routine going and trust my process,” Brunson said.
Grimes returned to the starting lineup after missing the game Wednesday with a sprained right ankle. It marked the 15th time in the last 16 games the Knicks have used the same starting five, a unit with which they have largely found consistency and success. … Julius Randle notched his sixth straight double-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
Obi Toppin was on the court and in shorts about two hours before tipoff. But his limited activity, and coach Tom Thibodeau’s comments about his progress, indicated it will still be some time before he is ready to play.
When the Knicks announced on Dec. 8 that Toppin had suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula, they said he would be reevaluated in two to three weeks. Friday marked two weeks and a day, but Thibodeau said he did not believe Toppin had undergone the reevaluation yet.
For now, the third-year forward has progressed from rehab work in a pool to form shooting, though he has yet to start running outside of the pool.
“There will be a progression to it,” Thibodeau said. “So he went from the pool to the form shooting and then it’ll start one-on-oh and then one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, and so there will be a buildup. You just have to be patient and let him work his way through it.”
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