Last night’s loss to the Houston Rockets had New York Knicks fans and the team itself up in arms about the prejudice of referees’ whistles. The key gripe, of course, was Carmelo Anthony’s would-be four-point play with five seconds remaining that was waved off by the refs. Instead of tying the game with the three-pointer, a continuation from James Harden’s sloppy foul attempt on the catch, and going to the line for the lead — Anthony got two free throws, both of which he made, and the Knicks were still down by one. The Rockets hit their next two free throws and the Knicks lost, a J.R. Smith halfcourt attempt smacking high off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
Mike Woodson, Anthony, and fans around the arena expressed their disapproval, booing and heckling the refs. Upon the replay, the refs might have made the right call. Harden first slapped Anthony on the catch, and then tried to wrap him up, when Anthony turned and fired the three-pointer at the whistle. The foul was clearly made right away; however, the refs seemed to blow the whistle upon the attempted wrap-up. OK. If that was the precedent, the refs should have called a foul immediately when the same exact situation happened moments later when the Rockets inbounded the ball to Harden. Instead, the Knicks’ initial slap on Harden went uncalled, and precious seconds ticked off the clock before the Knicks wrapped him up.
Anthony complained after the game, nodding to the number of calls Harden gets as opposed to the number Anthony gets per game: “you’ve got to see blood for me to get a call down there.”
Of course, these aren’t the real issues. The Knicks wouldn’t have been in that position if they had saved themselves from committing silly fouls, anyway. Through eight games, the Knicks are 7th in the NBA in fouls per game with 23 per contest. Furthermore, the New York Knicks fouls are coming at the most inopportune moments. Review the last few minutes of the game for a moment:
– Tied 91-91 with 5:30 to play, Hardaway Jr. fouled Chandler Parsons on a fade-away jumper with one second left on the shot clock. Parsons went to the line and sank both free throws.
– A minute later, within 30 seconds of playing time, the Knicks fouled James Harden twice, sending him to the line where he made all four of his free throw attempts, pushing a three-point Rockets lead to seven.
– The worst foul, of course, came on a sequence where the Knicks played excellent defense, scrambling to cover the Rockets shooters as Houston whipped the ball around the perimeter. Once again, with the shot clock running down, Harden fired an off-the-mark three-pointer, only to be fouled by Raymond Felton on the closeout. Harden shot three free throws, and only made two, but it pushed Houston’s lead to four once again.
Anthony then made an egregious error minutes later when he intentionally fouled Dwight Howard. However, it was under two minutes, so the “hack” rules change. The Rockets go to choose a free throw shooter for one free throw (Harden) and then get the ball back. Harden made the shot, then missed a jumper. Howard, however, got the offensive rebound, was hacked, and hit two free throws, pushing the Rockets’ lead back up to five.
This isn’t an unusual situation, either. In the MSG game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Knicks fought back from a huge deficit, only to undo themselves by committing silly fouls down the stretch. Late in that game, Kevin Love was fouled on three-point attempt that gave him three opportunities at the line.
The Knicks are simply hurting themselves and any momentum they build at the end of close games by committing poor fouls. Iman Shumpert, likely the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, is committing 3.5 fouls per game, indicating jumpy, overactive hands on defense. Carmelo Anthony and Pablo Prigioni are both averaging 2.9 fouls per game, as well. The Knicks allow their opponents the most free throw attempts per game — 29.5 — in the NBA, according to NBA.com/Stats.
The Knicks are struggling enough as it is, but they won’t win games if they’re playing against themselves, too.
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