The Knicks lost because of Kevin Durant, not the referees

Tom Thibodeau sat almost trembling in his press conference chair, trying to hell to contain his emotions. More than once he said he wanted to see the movie of the Nets 112, Knicks 110, but really, more than anything else, Thibodeau wanted to grab someone by the shoulders and shake some sense in him.

Preferably someone with a whistle around their neck.

But in the end, the referees did not lose this wild and crazy match for the Knicks. Kevin Durant lost it to them. Durant is one of the greatest players of all time and he is going to get more calls than Julius Randle who is not one of the best players of all time.

This is how sports work. That’s how the NBA works. A lifetime sufferer like Thibodeau knows it better than most.

And yet, when he stepped into the Barclays Center’s interview room, one night after rattling the entire league by banishing Kemba Walker, Thibodeau was more angry with the referees than Randle had been for most of the match. Mitchell Robinson had made a mistake on James Johnson with 2.2 seconds left and the score tied, and given the character of Robinson’s swipe, it was a call to be made.

Thibodeau was asked about that play. “I do not know,” he said.

He was asked about his renewed start-5, and he mentioned that RJ Barrett’s illness and early exit changed the dynamics, but quickly shifted to the fact that Brooklyn took 25 fouls to the Knicks’ 12. “They had a big mismatch in penalty throws. “I can tell you that,” Thibodeau growled. “Julius drives the ball and he gets two free throws?

Kevin Durant is caught by Mitchell Robinson during the Nets' 112-110 victory over the Knicks.
Kevin Durant is caught by Mitchell Robinson during the Nets’ 112-110 victory over the Knicks.
NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“And I do not care what the game is called, I really am not. You can call it tight. You can call it loose. But it has to be the same.”

Thibs rolled now. His eyeballs swelled and his veins popped, and thank God the minute police were not present to send him all the way over the edge.

“I want to see the movie,” he said, “but something is not right.”

Something was definitely not right. The Nets had Durant, who scored 11 of his 27 in the fourth quarter and made all nine of his free-throw attempts, including five in the fourth, and the Knicks had Randle, who had six of his 24 in the final 12 minutes and none from the foul line.

“But I know Julius drives the ball pretty hard,” Thibodeau said, “and I’m mad!”

To measure the weight of “and I’m mad!” part, think of Marv Albert, who says, “and it counts!”

Gregg Schwartz, the Knicks’ PR man, ended the interrogation prematurely, and old Thibs marched out. Knicks PR people are easy targets, given the instructions of the man who signs their payslips. But on this one, Schwartz was probably just trying to save his guy from a massive fine. We’ll see what the league has to say about that.

It was certainly a brutal loss. The Knicks had come from 16 points down to take the lead, to lose it again, and then to get Evan Fournier to come off the bench and hit a dramatic 3 to equalize it with 17 seconds left. Fournier needed it, and all his teammates sensed it. They jumped playfully into the Frenchman as he returned to the bench during the timeout. Suddenly, this felt like a night that could change the course of the Knicks’ disappointing year.

Kevin Durant hits a home run during the Nets' victory.
Kevin Durant hits a home run during the Nets’ victory.
NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

But then the referees hit Robinson on the call to be made and Johnson lowered his foul shots and Fournier missed his runner to victory just within halfway. Randle got into it with a referee, just as he had to earn a damaging technical error with 1:36 left.

“You saw what happened,” Randle said. “Everyone saw what happened. I do not want to talk about [the officials] because they obviously do not understand the game. ”

Although he reminded reporters that he only fired two free throws despite aggressively attacking the basket all night, Randle admitted: “It’s on the road. It’s going to happen.”

Yes, it happens all the time in the NBA, especially for 11-9 teams that travel (though not very far) to play a 14-6 team at the top of the conference. Randle said he grew up idolizing Durant, and he has “never seen anyone like him.” Hey, people you idolize usually benefit from the whistle.

Randle claimed that officials told him he was too strong to get certain calls. “They said that certain contact does not affect me, just as it affects other players that I am stronger …” said the Knicks striker. “Oh man, it annoys me to be honest with you. That’s not how you judge the game.”

In an ideal world, he is right. But in the NBA, Kevin Durant always gets calls that other players do not. And if the Knicks wanted to take advantage of that truth, they should have signed him when they had the chance.

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