Before the Knicks’ final game of 2020 began, coach Tom Thibodeau was asked if he had thought about a New Year’s resolution. Unsurprisingly, given his focus on the present and his propensity for watching game films when his team isn’t playing, he said he had not.
After witnessing Thursday night’s game, he might want to reconsider that last part.
If he was heading for game film, as he promised, what he was going to see was a historically bad shooting night. The Knicks shot 3-for-36 from beyond the arc and their starters went a combined 0-for-23, the most attempts by a starting unit without making one in NBA history.
The result, predictably, was a 100-83 loss to the previously winless Toronto Raptors at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
The Knicks entered the game leading the NBA in three-point shooting at 45.9%, but that stat took a big hit.
"I want to look at the film," Thibodeau said. "I think when teams play zone, you are going to get a lot of open looks, but we’ll take a look at it.
"It’s the right play. To me, it’s like if you get the right play, if you get the movement, if you force the defense to collapse, you kick it out, and if one of your shooters is open, that’s all I go by.
"When you rate your shots, which we chart and rank, if it’s a high-percentage play, before you know what the result is, what you try to determine is if it’s a good shot or not. So if a guy’s wide open, there’s no one within five feet, you’ve got to shoot it."
The Knicks started the game 1-for-10 and fell behind 17-6 in the opening minutes. But with both teams struggling offensively, they came back to tie it at the half.
The two teams went back and forth from there, sloppily staggering through a series of turnovers and air balls. Kevin Knox hit his first two three-point attempts, but the Knicks missed 20 consecutive three-point tries until Austin Rivers connected with 10:27 to play.
With the game slipping away and the Knicks trailing by nine, they again were undone by the long-range shot. RJ Barrett missed an open corner three-pointer, putting him at 0-for-7 from beyond the arc in the game. He finished the night 0-for-8 and is 0-for-21 after a 3-for-3 opening night.
The Raptors delivered on the other end and stretched the lead to 20 before the Knicks emptied the bench.
"We were in the game," said Julius Randle, who had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists but suffered a cramp in the fourth quarter and did not return with the game out of reach. "Obviously, going 3-for-36 from the three-point line doesn’t help. Overall, we felt like it was a very winnable game for us. Five or six points in the third quarter, playing well, defending. We just have to continue that throughout the course of the second half when we’re not hitting shots."
Said Thibodeau, "To me, I think we were shooting 47% from three the first four games and we got high-quality shots. I thought we got high-quality shots again tonight . . . We emphasize the open three, the layups and the drive to the basket to try to get to the free- throw line. It’s all part of the offense.
"So we always feel that if we defend, rebound and keep our turnovers down, that will put us in a position to win. I felt we had a shot at this. Our margin of error is very small with the amount of people we have out. But we’ll be getting people back. It’s hard to win on the road. Toronto’s a terrific team."
The Raptors, who entered the night at 0-3, had problems of their own beyond the record. Pascal Siakam was held out by coach Nick Nurse after leaving the court early in their last loss when he fouled out.
Fred VanVleet had 25 points and Kyle Lowry for the Raptors.