A questionable foul call on a shot with minimal chance of success resulted in the Knicks facing defeat on Monday night, extending their losing streak to three games and leaving them determined to avoid a fine. Aaron Holiday attempted a last-second prayer with 0.3 seconds remaining, a one-handed shot that should have led to overtime, not a game-winning play.
Referee Jacyn Goble called a foul on Jalen Brunson, who was contesting the shot with a hard closeout, maintaining a vertical stance and minimal contact below the release. Holiday capitalized on two of his three free throws, breaking the tie in the final moments of the Knicks’ surprising 105-103 loss to the Rockets.
Expressing his frustration, Coach Tom Thibodeau said, “Tough way to lose a game.” Over an hour later, NBA official Ed Malloy, the crew chief, admitted they made a mistake, acknowledging, “After seeing it during postgame review, the offensive player 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 it should not have been called.”
Thibodeau couldn’t challenge the call as he had used his challenge unsuccessfully earlier in the game. Brunson tied the score seconds earlier with a step-back over Dillon Brooks, but the controversial call marred the game’s conclusion.
Brunson, exercising caution, refrained from expressing his true thoughts to avoid fines, repeating, “Great call, next question.” Standing next to Brunson, Josh Hart challenged a reporter who didn’t see a foul, saying, “I want you to write that.”
This was not the first time Goble made a critical mistake, as he had missed a clear foul in a game involving LeBron James last season. The Knicks dropped their third straight game, falling to 22-2 this season against teams with losing records.
The Rockets, without their point guard Fred VanVleet, snapped a four-game losing streak, led by Dillon Brooks with 23 points and five assists. The Knicks, now 33-20, face a Valentine’s Day matchup in Orlando, a team that has already defeated them twice before heading into a much-needed All-Star break.
Despite Brunson’s struggles, he finished with 27 points and nine assists, while Donte DiVincenzo, another offensive contributor, left the game with a hamstring complaint after playing 41 minutes and scoring 23 points. Thibodeau provided no update on DiVincenzo’s condition in the postgame press conference. The game saw a turnaround for the Rockets in the fourth quarter, going on a 22-11 run to take an 11-point lead, but the Knicks fought back and eventually tied the game on Brunson’s jumper.