Knicks' Jalen Brunson suddenly struggling at free throw line
TORONTO — Jalen Brunson had a streak of 46 consecutive made free throws earlier this season, the second most in Knicks history.
Still, as well as the $104 million point guard has played over the past two games, including 38 points in Wednesday’s win over the Spurs, he has hit a slump at the free-throw line.
Brunson has missed 11 of his last 20 attempts from the stripe over his past four appearances, two games apiece on either side of the three games he missed last week in Texas with a sore hip.
The personal skid, which has dropped his overall free-throw percentage this season from 89.1 percent to 84.1 percent, began with a 1-for-4 showing in which Brunson clanked two late freebies in a one-point loss to the Bulls on Dec. 23.
The Knicks were ranked 18th in the NBA through Wednesday in free-throw shooting at 77.5 percent, including 17-for-26 (65.4 percent) against the Spurs.
“Just shoot it well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday night. “As long as you shoot it well, sometimes you’re going to miss. But more often than not, you’ll make. So get up there and make.”
The lone Knick in the top 10 at their positions in the initial fan voting for the All-Star Game is not Brunson nor Julius Randle, but popular reserve guard Derrick Rose. The former league MVP ranks ninth among backcourt players in the Eastern Conference with 220,229 votes. … RJ Barrett (finger) remains out for the Knicks. Otto Porter Jr. (toe) is out for Toronto.
Obi Toppin was assigned Thursday to G-League Westchester so he could practice five-on-five with contact on the team’s off day. He accompanied the Knicks to Toronto for Friday’s game against the Raptors.
Toppin was available on Wednesday night but didn’t see any action against the Spurs after Thibodeau said he’d be used on a “situational” basis. Toppin hasn’t played since suffering a non-displaced fractured fibula on Dec. 7 against the Hawks.
Since becoming a full-time starter on Nov. 20, Quentin Grimes has averaged 12.4 points and 34.2 minutes in 21 games. He is shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and 37.7 percent from 3-point range in that stretch.
“I think I know exactly where I get my shots,” Grimes said. “Guys know what type of guy I am, a shooter, and I can make plays driving to the basket when I have more freedom. Just try to make plays for myself and my team and everything is gonna fall into place, really.”