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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Knicks fall to Rockets after Jalen Brunson foul spoils comeback

HOUSTON — Jalen Brunson went from the hero to the losing end of a controversial call that buried the Knicks. 

Seconds after hitting a clutch and-1 to tie Monday’s contest at the Toyota Center, Brunson was whistled for a foul on a prayer 3-point attempt from Houston’s Aaron Holiday with 0.3 seconds left in a 105-103 loss to the Rockets. 

Replays showed it was a bad call that gave the Rockets three foul shots in a tie game.

Holiday buried two and the Rockets stole one. 

Jalen Brunson reacts after he was called for a foul in the final seconds of the Knicks’ loss to the Rockets on Feb. 12, 2024. Screengrab
Jalen Brunson is called for a foul in the final seconds of the Knicks’ loss to the Rockets on Feb. 12, 2024. Screengrab

The Knicks (33-21) mounted a dramatic comeback to reach that point in the game, getting the timely step-back from Brunson over Dillon Brooks and strong defense from Precious Achiuwa. 

But after struggling offensively all evening, the Knicks had no margin for error or mistakes from the officials. 

They’ve now dropped three straight ahead of a Valentine’s Day matchup in Orlando, which is followed by a much-needed All-Star break. 

Brunson struggled all evening — especially in a miserable first half — but still finished with 27 points and nine assists on 10 of 25 shooting.

Donte DiVincenzo was the other main source of offense but left the game with about five minutes remaining while complaining about his hamstring. 

He became the latest on the Knicks long infirmary line after playing 41 of a possible 43 minutes.

Donte DiVincenzo drives to the rim during the Knicks’ loss to the Rockets on Feb. 12, 2024. Getty Images

He finished with 23 points. 

The game took a turn toward the Rockets at the start of the fourth quarter, when the home team went on a 18-7 run to take a 11-point advantage.

The Knicks chipped away and eventually tied it on Brunson’s jumper. 

Dillon Books shoots during the Rockets’ win over the Knicks on Feb. 12, 2024. USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets (23-29), playing without their point guard Fred VanVleet, snapped a four-game losing streak.

The Knicks, still missing key starters, dropped to 22-2 this season against teams that entered Monday with losing records. 

The first half was ugly for Brunson, who shot just 2 for 11 with seven points and three turnovers. 

Jalen Brunson drives to the rim during the Knicks’ loss to the Rockets on Feb. 12, 2024. Getty Images

But he was relentless.

He attacked and attacked, undeterred by the flubs and missed shots.

And eventually, the point guard gave the Knicks a chance to win that was taken away by the referees.

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