After the New York Knicks suffered a brutal loss in the second game of their road trip, the attention turned to a pivotal play involving a referee.
Wednesday night’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was one of the worst of the season. No doubt about it. Playing against an undermanned Grizzlies team should have been a win, despite the Knicks‘ troubling record on the road.
For three quarters the Knicks were flat, lazy, and uninspired. But in the fourth quarter, they turned up the intensity and nearly pulled off the come from behind win they needed so desperately.
In a three-point game with a jump ball coming, the Knicks were in a position to regain possession and possibly tie the game. Then this happened, courtesy of Fox Sports Grizzlies:
— FOX Sports Grizzlies (@GrizzliesOnFSSE) January 18, 2018
Was there enough there to call a technical foul, especially in such a pivotal moment of the game? Definitely not.
But should the nine-year NBA veteran, Courtney Lee be smarter than that? Most definitely. There’s no need to jaw back and forth with a rookie in that situation. And to be fair, he could have received a technical for the initial elbow to the gut that captured the attention of two of the referees.
Despite the backlash from Courtney Lee and Knicks fans alike, the league is sticking to their guns. Per ESPN’s Ian Begley, here is the pool reporter transcript of the referee’s explanation of the call.
From the NBA, here is the referee’s explanation of the Courtney Lee technical foul: pic.twitter.com/hrQD736iaM
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 18, 2018
The league doubled down on the technical call in their two-minute report per Newsday’s Al Iannazzone.
NBA 2-minute report also said the tech on Lee was correct call, and all technicals are reviewed by League Operations.
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) January 18, 2018
That explanation may not be enough to justify the technical foul for most Knicks fans, but don’t let that distract you from the real story of Wednesday night’s game. The Knicks didn’t lose the game when Courtney Lee was assessed the technical. They lost it in the first three quarters when they let the Grizzlies walk all over them.
The Knicks are heading deeper into the Western Conference as they continue their longest road trip of the season. In the next week, the Knicks have games against the Utah Jazz, LA Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns. There are certainly some winnable games during that stretch, but with the road woes this team has dealt with they could easily lose every single one of those games.
This is a make or break moment. It’s time for the stars of this team to step up in a big way. Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Enes Kanter are going to have to lead this team during the toughest stretch of the year. If they are going to make it back home with a puncher’s chance it is going to be because of those core guys.
We’re only barely past the midway point of the season, but this team still has a ton of question marks. Are they a playoff team or should they start scouting lottery picks? Should they be looking to acquire someone to bolster the rotation at the deadline or start selling off veteran players for assets?