The New York Knicks escaped the Air Canada Centre with a 111-109 win on Tuesday, improving to 4-4 by handing the Atlantic-leading Raptors their third straight loss following a 5-0 start. After the game, the officials acknowledged that New York — and, specifically, All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony — had a bit of help in making a break for it.
With 22.8 seconds left and the Knicks holding both possession and a one-point lead, New York's Lance Thomas triggered the inbounds. He handed the ball off to Anthony right in front of the Toronto bench, where he was set upon by three Raptors. As Anthony pivoted in search of a safe place to go with the ball, the Raptors' coaching staff erupted in unison and began pointing to the sideline, screaming that Anthony had stepped out of bounds. (He also appeared to travel, shuffling his feet as he searched.)
He eventually shook loose and offloaded the ball to Thomas, who was fouled by Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and would make both of his free throws to put New York up by three. He'd hit another pair moments later, capping a stellar game — 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting, 3-for-3 from 3-point land, with three rebounds in 22 minutes — and pushing New York across the finish line after a very weird final few minutes.
Televised replays showed Anthony's right foot across the sideline, which should have constituted a turnover that gave Toronto possession with more than 20 seconds remaining and a chance to take the lead. Because he wasn't called out on the floor, though, the play was not subject to a second look under the NBA's replay-review guidelines:
Referees can only initiate a review on a called out-of-bounds play (for example, not one where an out-of-bounds might have occurred) and only those involving doubt as to which player caused the ball to go out (not those, for example, where a player stepped on the line).
Referee Ed Malloy acknowledged the missed call during a postgame interview with pool reporter Eric Koreen of the National Post:
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Question 2: Did you see Carmelo Anthony step out of bounds?
Question 3: Did you see Carmelo Anthony travel?
Question 4: Have you reviewed the play since then on video and what did you see?
Malloy: When we came in, we reviewed the play. We did see Anthony step out of bounds and should’ve awarded the ball to Toronto.
Question 5: What was your explanation to Coach [Dwane] Casey at the time?
I don’t really discuss what conversations we have with coaches and things of that nature.
Anthony, who finished with a team-high 25 points on 10-for-23 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and three steals in the win, preferred not to dwell on the past when asked about the play after the game, according to Paul Attfield of The Associated Press:
"I don't want to see it, I'm getting out of here," he said. "Ain't no need for me to look back and watch it, it's over with. I don't even know if I did it. Probably, but we're getting out of here with the win."
For their part — and for very different reasons — the Raptors weren't too interested in revisiting the missed call either, according to Chris O'Leary of the Toronto Star:
“Video showed that he stepped out of bounds ... I saw it with my own eyes. It’s a tough game to officiate and I wouldn’t say anything if it wasn’t right there in front of me,” [Raptors coach Dwane] Casey said.
“I saw the same thing everybody else seen,” Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said, as he massaged the bridge of his nose, keeping himself in check.
“All night there were a lot of things we were definitely frustrated about. We still had a chance to pull it out. I missed a free throw, we got the ball back and missed a layup. A combination of things.”
Things like shooting just 4-for-17 from 3-point range, and getting precious little production from their second unit after injuries to wings DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross pressed James Johnson into the starting lineup and forced Casey to rely more on Anthony Bennett and a struggling Patrick Patterson. Like missing two-thirds of their first-quarter shots in another slow start — an issue that plagued the Raps down the stretch last season — and failing to keep the Knicks off the offensive glass early, struggling to slow down Anthony during a 17-point second quarter, and committing four final-frame turnovers and frittering away several other possessions.
Despite strong outings from the All-Star backcourt of DeRozan (a game-high 29 points on 11-for-23 shooting, five rebounds, two assists) and Lowry (23 points on 8-for-18 shooting, nine assists, seven rebounds, three steals), the Raptors didn't take advantage of their opportunities to put the Knicks down. It's a common refrain, one to which we return every season: the refs didn't cost them the game. On that one key play down the stretch, though, they sure didn't help, and you can understand that making Raptors coaches, players and fans feel even worse.
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