One night after the New York Knicks got the benefit of a missed call late in the fourth quarter of a win over the Toronto Raptors, they found themselves on the short end of the stick in the final second of play against the Charlotte Hornets.
With just six-tenths of a second remaining in the fourth quarter and the Knicks trailing 95-93, the Hornets had two men draped all over All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, so New York's Lance Thomas dumped the ball into Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks' 7-foot-3 Latvian rookie, and asked him to do something positive offensively that wasn't soaring over dudes' backs for putback dunks. The 20-year-old, miraculously, obliged:
Upon further review, though, what looked like a game-winning 3-pointer that would push the Knicks past Charlotte for a 96-95 win was ruled to have come just the merest sliver of a fraction of a second late:
... and so Charlotte hung on for a 95-93 home win.
NBA TV provided a screencap showing just how achingly close Porzingis' shot was to counting:
It seems just one more extra split-second would have given Porzingis the fingertip's worth of separation he needed to get the shot off in time. Replay suggests that, just maybe, the extra split-second could have been there had the start and stop of the clock broken a bit differently.
A freeze-frame immediately following the layup by Cody Zeller that would wind up being Charlotte's game-winner seems to show 0.9 seconds rather than 0.6 on the clock after the shot went down:
Another from just before Porzingis released his shot seems to show the red lights around the backboard, which illuminate to indicate the game's end, turning on with 0.1 still remaining on the shot clock:
Break out the orange-and-blue-colored tinfoil and start making hats, Knicks fans. It's conspiracy theory time!
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Or, better yet, accept the possibility of alternating split-second-slow and split-second-fast stops as karmic retribution not only for Anthony getting away with stepping out of bounds and traveling against Toronto on Tuesday, but also for Anthony and head coach Derek Fisher drawing up yet another in a long line of left-wing 'Melo isolations in the final half-minute of a tie-game, only to draw nothing but the side of the backboard:
That misfire left the Hornets with a shade under four seconds to come up with their own game-winner. New York was able to deflect Hornets big man Spencer Hawes' first inbounds attempt out of bounds, giving Charlotte the chance to inbound under their own basket with 2.2 seconds remaining.
From there, Hornets coach Steve Clifford used the Knicks' attention to ex-New York guard Jeremy Lin — who'd scored 17 points off the bench and had just made two tough shots in the previous three minutes to give the Hornets the lead — to generate something a whole lot tastier than iso-Melo:
Lin ran from the left side of the basket around a Zeller screen and curled into the paint toward Hawes. As he drew nearer to both ball and basket, both his man (guard Langston Galloway) and Zeller's man (center Robin Lopez) stepped toward Lin, leaving Zeller free to catch, take one dribble and go up for a layup that fell through, giving Charlotte a two-point lead that would juuuuuuust barely hold up.
Nicolas Batum led the way with 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting with five rebounds for Charlotte, who improved to 4-4 on the season. Lin added 17 on 7-for-11 shooting, three assists, three steals and two rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench against his former club, joining Zeller (12 points, four rebounds, three assists, 15 free-throw attempts) and Jeremy Lamb (14 points on 6-for-10 shooting, four rebounds, two steals) in keying a second unit that helped the Hornets come back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit.
Anthony scored 29 on 12-for-25 shooting, with 15 coming in the third quarter, to go with six rebounds and four assists to lead the Knicks, who fell back below .500 at 4-5 thanks in part to dismal deep shooting (4-for-21 from 3-point range), struggles with getting to the line (only seven free-throw attempts) and costly cough-ups (17 turnovers leading to 25 Charlotte points). The starting backcourt of Jose Calderon and Arron Afflalo, who made his Knicks debut after missing the first eight games of the season with a hamstring injury, contributed 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Porzingis chipped in 10 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes, but came up just a whisker shy of a shot that would've had Knicks fans reserving space for a statue in front of Madison Square Garden. Instead, New Yorkers will have to content themselves with the 20-year-old notching his fourth double-double in his ninth career game, being both willing to take that shot and capable of making it, and seeming both broken up by the result and confident in the process that got him here:
There are worse ways to end a loss, when you think about it.
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