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Rockets 105, Knicks 103: “Refs need consequences“

Certified highway robbery.

New York Knicks v Houston Rockets Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The NBA is determined to perpetuate its importance among all professional leagues in the major American sports landscape.

That’s why they are uploading game highlights and end-game packages to their official social networks and other platforms, such as video-sharing YouTube, so everybody knows what they’re missing out on by not following the competition closely.

Whether that’s good or not for the brand, however, is up for debate.

I am writing this recap more than a few hours since the final buzzer deafened those watching the New York Knicks (33-21) and the Houston Rockets (24-29) play basketball live on location inside the walls of Toyota Center, TX.

The video above shows the final 4:26 minutes of play of the matchup between the loser Knicks and the winning Rockets, the latter getting away with a close 105-103 victory on Monday. The NBA dubbed it a “WILD ENDING,” all caps like the Supervillain. Feel free to indulge.

When you go outside today or arrive at your office and hit the coffee machine with your pals for a little break, you might hear about “robbery.” Don’t blame the folks as you always do when these subjective opinions and thoughts come up in your convos as they won’t be talking no nonsense. Not today.

Not after the NBA shockingly uploaded a game for the masses to watch all across the glove, not after Crew Chief Ed Malloy spoke to a pool of reporters after the matchup was over and confirmed what was already clear the moment it happened on the court, and something that should have been spotted (and if not that, then stopped) in time for all of this BS to not even register in the archives on this dark Tuesday.

Sadly, here we are, looking from afar at an L instead of enjoying a dub—probably, maybe, perhaps. Because no, the Knicks would have not won the game had that non-existent foul gotten called in the final seconds of the fourth frame yesterday, but they would have at least gotten what they earned through 48 full minutes of play: the right to fight Houston in overtime for five more full rounds of the clock.

Turns out, they didn’t even get the 0.2 seconds everybody, Thibs included, thought they would be awarded by the refs following the missed-on-purpose third freebie by Aaron Holiday that Josh Hart had no trouble fielding.

Rewind a few seconds, minutes in real-time, and this is how Ed Malloy described what happened on the field and what his crew saw on the court to swing the game in Houston’s favor, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN via Fred Katz of The Athletic.

“In live action it was felt that the lower body contact was illegal contact,” Malloy said as to why Brunson’s play on Holiday was called for a shooting foul.

“After seeing it during postgame review, [Holiday] was able to return to a normal playing position on the floor. The contact which occurred after the release of the ball therefore is incidental and marginal to the shot attempt and should not have been called.”

In other words: the NBA decided the outcome of the game, plainly and simply. They called a non-existent foul on a play that they sent to replay review. They gave Holiday three chances to end the game from the charity stripe, and maybe they thought they were being kind enough to the Knicks by leaving 0.3 seconds left in the clock. Of course, they probably also knew from the moment they set that time up in the stopwatch that they would give no chance to New York even if they grabbed a rebound off the third freebie and called a timeout—which they clearly did, in time—doubling down on laughing on the Knicks, the Association, and the sport as a whole.

Absurd and ludicrous times, indeed, but that’s what live events can bring to the table. What is astonishing is that the National Basketball Association, upon further-further-FURTHER review and after stating publicly that the refs had blatantly robbed the Knicks away and decided the outcome of a game, went on and filled their virtual archives with the final minutes of such a farce for everybody to enjoy today, tomorrow, and for years on end.

Don’t blame your grandkids’ grandkids from heaven or hell—wherever you end up—when they check this replay decades from now and wonder what the hell led you to waste your precious, short time on Earth watching a sports-entertainment-and-orchestrated league masquerading as a professional, competitive sport.

Some things, we and them will never know.

The Knicks only have one game left before the All-Start break as they will flock to Orlando to play the Magic on Thursday, the second-to-last day with scheduled games before action returns to NBA courts across the nation on Feb. 22 when New York will play the Sixers in Philly.

Honestly, the ASW cannot come quickly enough, and that’s saying something considering the Knicks are 16-6 in the 2024 calendar year and 2-4 in February, aiming at a near-split if they can beat the Magic in two days to make it 3-4 on the second month of the year.

The only time New York had lost three games in a row before Monday sealed that fate for the second time this season was on the rear end of December, including a Dec. 30 loss to Indiana in a game in which none of the players part of the OG-trade were available for the Knicks.

Not before, not after that had the Knicks lost three consecutive matchups this season. What is more, the Knicks hadn’t lost even back-to-back games since they dropped a couple to the Cavs and the Bucks all the way back on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3, just six games into the season.

For context, the Knicks had already lost three consecutive games by Nov. 2 last season. They lost five straight at the end of Dec. 2022. Then four consecutive games a month after that on Jan. 2023, and then again (twice) at the start and end of March.

Given that information and the box score above, if you still don’t feel reasonably good about what this team is doing these days, I don’t even know.

For the nth game this season, New York was more than a few bodies short. Yes, Jericho Sims made his comeback and produced a bit of sauce, but that doesn’t take from having to play another game without three/four starters, and two of the Knicks' best-three players on the sidelines.

These dudes lost a game they should have at least taken to overtime. They did it by a meager two-point difference. With Jalen Brunson shooting 10-of-25 from the field and Donte DiVincenzo hosting 21 shots of which he “only” made nine for 23 points. With two newcomers playing 17+ minutes and carrying most of the second-unit load with the other two reserves (Taj & Deuce) only combining for 10 total minutes of on-court action. With a collective effort good enough for them to outrebound Houston 51-39. With just 12 FTA (seven made) to the Rockets’ 33 (!!!) attempts.

This was a wild game and it’s fair to say that the Knicks put themselves in more trouble than they should against a Rockets squad that is 9-14 in 2024 alone. They fell 16 points down before halftime. They were 10 down with seven minutes remaining. But they fought back multiple times, had the game heading into OT, and had to see the NBA illegally denying them late.

As JalenBrunsavior sagely and resolutely put it, it’s about time: “Refs need consequences.”