Monday's game between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks figured to be an ugly game, as both teams were banged up. The Knicks were without Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Isaiah Hartenstein, while the Rockets were without Fred VanVleet, Cam Whitmore, and Tari Eason.
Alperen Sengun was questionable heading into the game, but opted to play through a lower back injury and tough it out. The Rockets continued their trend of stellar home play, as they jumped out to a 57-43 lead at the half.
The Knicks clawed back and erased the deficit, as the game was 76-74 with 11:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. The game had several swings throughout the final period, as the Rockets jumped out to a 91-80 lead, only to have the Knicks tie it up 103-103 with 8.7 seconds remaining in the game.
Which is when the game got interesting.
Rockets coach Ime Udoka opted to take a timeout, in order to draw up a final play, with hopes of ending the game in regulation. Jalen Green ultimately drove to the basket but was blocked by Precious Achiuwa.
The ball ultimately landed in Aaron Holiday's hands, who threw up a heave with one arm before the buzzer sounded, as he wasn't able to get his form set before releasing the shot. The shot didn't go in, but there was obvious contact between Holiday and Knicks guard Jalen Brunson.
After regrouping, the officials determined that Holiday was fouled by Brunson with .3 seconds remaining, giving the 27-year-old guard an opportunity to close the game out at the line.
The Knicks need to be mad at themselves for losing to the Rockets in heart-breaking fashion, not the refs.
Holiday made two of the three free throws, leading to a Rockets win.
After the game, all the talk was about the foul, as Knicks fans were divided on whether a foul should've been called in that situation.
But what got lost in the shuffle was the fact that the Knicks didn't lose this game because of the officials. It was never a smart move to make contact with Holiday at the point of release in that situation.
It would've been smarter to force him to make the shot, in that high-leverage situation. Make him beat you, don't bail him out.
That's not on the refs.
Also, the Knicks kept letting Dillon Brooks get great looks in crunch time, as he had 12 points in the fourth quarter alone and went 4-for-4 from 3-point range during that period.
That's also not on the refs.
If Brooks misses any of those shots, we're likely having an entirely different conversation.
But back to point A, closing out on a shooter without even playing the ball puts the game in the hands of the officials. Which isn't how you win a game.
The Knicks have themselves to blame for this game, not the refs. Even if the refs did admit to making the wrong call.
The game never should've came down to that.