Knicks denied protest to loss despite NBA, refs admitting wrong call in final seconds

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The New York Knicks’ protest of a Feb. 12 loss to the Houston Rockets was rejected by the NBA on Wednesday despite the league admitting an incorrect foul was called that benefited Houston near the end of the game. 

It was the expected outcome after the Knicks filed their protest, claiming the shooting foul against Brunson was called incorrectly, thus resulting in the loss after free throws were made by Aaron Holiday, the player Brunson apparently fouled. 

“The Knicks protested the result of the game on the ground that a shooting foul was called incorrectly on the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson for making contact with the Rockets’ Aaron Holiday during a last-second shot attempt,” the NBA’s statement with their protest ruling said. “Under the standard for NBA game protests, New York was required to demonstrate that there was a misapplication of the official playing rules, as opposed to an error in judgment by game officials.”


Jalen Brunson dribbles

Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks in action against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on February 12, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Since the foul was ruled an “error in judgment” by the referee during the game, the loss for the Knicks was upheld. 

The play came on the road for New York, where a tie game at 103 apiece saw the Rockets holding the ball with six seconds left. Holiday dribbled along the baseline with Precious Achiuwa guarding him when he kicked the ball all the way out to Holiday despite the clocking continuing to tick away. 


Holiday heaved a desperation three-pointer to beat the clock, and Brunson provided a hand in his face to make the shot tougher. But a referee blew his whistle before the clock struck zero, and despite the ball not going in the net, Holiday was awarded free throw attempts to win the game. 

The Knicks’ protest was in hopes the game would be forced to resume in overtime. 

Jalen Brunson talks to referee

Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks argues a call against the Houston Rockets during the second half at Toyota Center on February 12, 2024 in Houston, Texas.  (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Now, referees reviewed the play in real-time to determine whether Holiday should get free throws or not, and they did in the end. However, crew chief Ed Malloy said postgame the call was wrong. 

“After seeing it during postgame review, the offensive player was able to return to a normal playing position on the floor,” Malloy told a pool reporter. “The contact which occurred after the release of the ball therefore is incidental and marginal to the shot attempt and should not have been called.”

The NBA said the same in their protest denial explanation, but it doesn’t matter in the end.

Jalen Brunson walks on court

Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks and Charlie Brown Jr. #44  walk off the court after losing to the Houston Rockets 105-103 at Toyota Center on February 12, 2024 in Houston, Texas.  (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)


The last time the league granted a protest from a team was in 2008, when Shaquille O’Neal, playing with the Miami Heat, was said to have fouled out of a game despite only having five fouls.

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