Friday, May 24, 2024
spot_img

Knicks escape Game 1 vs. Pacers as officials pull off an old-fashioned basketball robbery

The New York Knicks won Game 1 of their second-round series vs the Indiana Pacers on Monday and they have a few people to thank for it: Jalen Brunson, namely, who finished with 43 points for his fourth straight 40-point game, Donte DiVincenzo, who finished with 25 points and five 3s, and Josh Hart, who continued his incredible postseason play with 24 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and a block. 

Isaiah Hartenstein was again superb. 

OG Anunoby matched Hartenstein’s 13 points and hit three 3s. 

New York was great. It won the game. None of that is disputed. 

But there are a three other names who also played an indisputable role in determining the outcome of this game: Zach Zarba. Sean Wright and Tyler Ford. These were the officials for Game 1, and without singling anyone out, they were, collectively, atrocious down the stretch of this game, particularly in the final minute, and they very well might’ve cost Indiana the game. 

Let’s not even get into the “marginal contact” overturn in the first half when Brunson clearly body-checked Myles Turner, which allowed Tom Thibodeau to retain a challenge for later in the game, which came in quite handy when he needed what was originally ruled a Brunson turnover (correctly) reversed with 22 seconds left in a one-point game. 

The officials were screwing up calls left and right down the stretch, including one that went in Indiana’s favor when Tyrese Haliburton had his foul correctly overturned with 1:51 to play in a tie game when he clearly hit nothing but ball on his swipe. 

These were game-swinging calls, bad ones, and having the opportunity to go the replay monitor to have these officials correct their mistake(s) was vital. The problem was, Indiana didn’t have that replay opportunity with 52 seconds to play in a tie game when Aaron Nesmith was whistled for a kicked ball when he clearly hit the ball with his hand. 

After the game, crew chief Zach Zarba admitted that the call was botched, and more importantly, that a kicked-ball violation is not reviewable, which is absurd. What could be easier, and quicker, to review than whether a ball was kicked? Why even have replay? 

It was a bad call. It’s an even worse rule. And it cost the Pacers big time, because not only did they have a transition possession taken from them on what was a clear steal in a tie game, but 12 seconds later Donte DiVincenzo hit what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer. 

The Pacers, of course, had one last shot at their own game-winner with possession of the ball, down one, with 12 seconds left. That opportunity was stolen from them, too, when Turner was called for what can only be described as an absolutely bogus illegal screen. 

I don’t even know where to start with this, but I suppose I’ll first address the fact that the Pacers challenged the call and lost the challenge. That does not mean this was the right call just because it was upheld upon review. Yeah, Turner is technically moving, and I suspect that’s what the league affirm in its Last Two-Minute report on Tuesday, too. Once that was called on the floor, it was never going to get overturned. 

It never should’ve been called in the first place. This was not a “50-50 call” that could’ve gone either way. This exact screen is set all game long in every single NBA game you watch. It is not, I assure you, called as an illegal screen 50% of the time. If it was, there would be about 30 illegal screens a game. In reality, this is about a 20-80 call, at best. 

But even if it was a true 50-50 call, then that, by definition, makes it a judgment call, and to say it was poor judgment to make that call at that point in the game would be an understatement. Personally, I would call it a total joke. If it’s at all possible, you let the players decide the games. You have a higher standard for fouls in the fourth quarter, and certainly in the closing minutes, of a tight playoff game. 

It’s no different than a player having to be extra sure of his shot selection in the final two minutes of a game. To say “a foul in the first quarter is a foul in the fourth quarter” is akin to saying an ill-advised shot in the first quarter is no different than jacking up a bad shot with two minutes to go in a tie playoff game. That’s a lie, and anyone who has ever played basketball at any sort of competitive level would say as much. The shot in the fourth quarter is infinitely worse. So is the case with the “judgment” call that was made on Monday, and a handful of others. 

Also, spare me with the “it’s so hard to be an NBA official” sympathy note. Of course it’s hard. That’s why these men and women are supposed to be the absolute best of the best. Same as an NBA player, any one of whom would get absolutely roasted if they made this many mistakes inside the final two minutes of a tie playoff game. 

These refs deserve the same heat. I don’t care what the Last Two-Minute report says. I don’t care what the Pool Report says. I don’t care that Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, admirably, opted for the “that’s just the way it goes” high road in his postgame interview. I don’t care what anyone says, really. I know what I watched, and it was basketball robbery. 

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.