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Referees admit to missing call that helped Knicks beat Pistons

Josh Hart’s bucket with 2.8 seconds remaining that helped give the Knicks a 113-111 win over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night at Madison Square Garden shouldn’t have happened, NBA referee James Williams said.

Williams, who was the crew chief for Monday’s game, admitted the crew missed a foul call on the last-minute sequence that started with a missed three-pointer and involved three turnovers before Hart’s game-winner.

The sequence began with New York in possession and down one, after ex-Knick Quentin Grimes’ layup gave Detroit the lead with 37 seconds to play.

On Jalen Brunson’s missed three, Grimes corralled the rebound in the corner and found teammate Simone Fontecchio with a pass near the paint. Hart was able to stick out a hand and jar the ball free for Isaiah Hartenstein to recover and find Donte DiVincenzo at the top of the key. But his pass was deftly picked off by Detroit’s Ausar Thompson. And this is where the controversy started.

Thompson took two wild dibbles and the ball was beginning to escape his reach when DiVincenzo lunged in and got the ball and the man. After the two tumbled over, the loose ball was scooped up by Brunson, who took two dribbles and found an open Hart for the game-winner.

The referees said a foul should have been called with around 8.5 seconds to play.

“Upon postgame review, we determined that Thompson gets to the ball first, and then was deprived of the opportunity to gain possession of the ball,” referee James Williams said. “Therefore, a loose-ball foul should have been whistled on New York’s Donte DiVincenzo.”

The referee’s admission was little consolation to Pistons head coach Monty Williams, whose team fell to 8-49 on the season.

“The absolute worst call of the season,” he said after the game.

“We’re sick of hearing the same stuff over and over again,” the Pistons head coach said. “We had a chance to win the game and a guy dove into Ausar's legs and there was a no-call. That’s an abomination. You cannot miss that in an NBA game. Period.

"And I'm tired of talking about it. I'm tired of our guys asking me 'What more can we do coach?' That situation is Exhibit A to what we’ve been dealing with all season long and enough’s enough. You cannot dive into a guy’s legs in a big-time game like that and there be a no-call. It’s ridiculous and we’re tired of it. We just want a fair game called. Period. And I’ve got nothing else to say. We want a fair game and that was not fair. I’m done.”

While his head coach said plenty, in response to an all-caps tweet by a fan saying the referees "absolutely robbed" the Pistons, Grimes was more succinct. He simply tweeted, "……………"

After the game, DiVincenzo said he hadn’t looked at the film of the controversial play, but on the court, he "saw the ball in front of me and I went for the ball."

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, who didn’t want to comment on the play in question until he saw the replay a second time, said in his postgame news conference he was "obviously very pleased with the win" in what was "a very physical game."

“I’m fine with that, as long as it’s the same both ways and I felt it was,” Thibodeau said of the physicality, adding that he felt there was a lot of contact on Brunson’s drives. “But I was okay with that because I felt that there was contact the other way as well.

"So, to me, as long as it’s not tight one way and loose the other way. You can call it tight, you can call it loose, I’m looking for consistency. And I thought they were. I thought it was a good hard-fought game."