HOUSTON – The Houston Rockets got a win after the referees called it a mistake.
Aaron Holiday had 18 points, capped by two free throws following Jalen Brunson's contested foul from behind the 3-point line, to lead the Rockets to a 105-103 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night.
Houston had a four-point lead with less than a minute remaining before Brunson scored the next four points, capped by a jump shot with 8.1 seconds left to tie it at 103.
Precious Achiuwa blocked a short shot from Jalen Green and Holiday grabbed the ball from beyond the arc and shot as Brunson ran toward him and was called for a foul.
After the game, crew chief Ed Malloy said that in live action they believed “lower body contact was illegal contact.” But their opinion changed after a review of the replay.
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Jalen Brunson was called for a foul on this play 👀
Rockets win free throws 😳 pic.twitter.com/Pn7hZR43lU
– Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 13, 2024
“After seeing this during the post-game review, the offensive player was able to return to his normal playing position on the floor,” he said. “The contact that occurred after the ball was released is therefore incidental and marginal to the shot attempt and should not have been called.”
Holiday was asked about the play before Malloy's comments.
“I just tried to catch the ball and shoot,” Holiday said. “I saw him tip and he got close to me, so I tried to pick him up and tried to make a 3, and Jalen just hit me in the chest.”
Holiday made the first two free throws before intentionally missing the third to run out the clock.
Brunson was asked what he thought of the foul three different times and responded with the same four words each time.
“Great decision,” he said. “Next question.”
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about the end of the game.
“Tough way to lose a game,” he said twice in a row.
He was then asked what he thought of the refereeing and he said it was “great”. But when asked directly if he believed Brunson fouled Holiday, he avoided the question.
“Look,” he said, shaking his head slightly.
Dillon Brooks scored 23 points, Jabari Smith Jr. added 20 and Alperen Sengun had 18 to help the Rockets snap a four-game skid.
“It was good to see us close out fourth in a back-and-forth game,” Houston coach Ime Udoka said.
Holiday was happy to get this one done after missing a few close games.
“That was huge,” he said. “We lost the last two and I feel like we could have won, but we didn’t do it down the stretch. So I'm glad we were able to pull that off.
Brunson had 27 points and Donte DiVincenzo scored 23 in the Knicks' third consecutive loss.
The Rockets were up by three entering the fourth before Holiday went on an 11-5 run to extend the lead to 85-76 with about nine minutes remaining. Holiday opened the quarter with a dunk before hitting a 3-pointer. He added a jump shot next before throwing Smith a dunk and ending his hot stretch with a layup.
A 3-pointer from Brooks put Houston ahead by 11 before the Knicks scored the next nine points, with the final seven from Bojan Bogdanovic, cutting the lead to 91-89 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
Brooks made a 3 to put Houston ahead by five with about 3 1/2 minutes left, but Josh Hart made a second later to put the Knicks up 98-96.
Another 3-pointer from Brooks came after that, but this time Alec Burks made one for New York, cutting the lead to two again with less than two minutes remaining.
Houston played without Fred VanVleet, who missed the fourth straight game with a left adductor strain, and rookie Cam Whitmore, out for the second game with a sprained right ankle.
The Rockets led by 14 at halftime before the Knicks opened the second half with a 16-4 run that put them up 61-59 with about 7 1/2 minutes left in the third. Brunson scored the first four points in that stretch and Hart made two 3-pointers to help New York cut into the deficit.
Knicks: Visit Orlando on Wednesday night.
Rockets: Visit Memphis on Wednesday night.