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The Knicks have won a lot more this season than anyone could have imagined and done so gracefully.
And in the past six days, the Knicks have lost three games on the final possession to the best two teams of the Eastern Conference — once to the Nets and to the Sixers twice.
And the Knicks have done so not as gracefully.
Knicks All-Star Julius Randle can start writing out his donation check to the NBA after his 25-second, profane postgame Zoom call. A fuming Randle blamed the two-person officiating crew for costing them the loss — a 101-100 overtime heartbreaker at the Garden.
It was less than a week ago when a raging Randle tried to go after referee Scott Foster at Barclays Center, but was held back by his teammates.
A last-second play in which Randle was called for an up-and-down travel threw him into a tizzy. He did not get fined by the league, but this time it’s a slam dunk.
Sunday night ended with Sixers’ Tobias Harris sinking two free throws with 5.3 seconds left to give Philly a 1-point lead after a Randle loose-ball foul.
It ended with Randle — and Tom Thibodeau — screaming at the shorthanded officiating crew for calling the infraction. Randle’s been a rock and an ironman, but he may need to tone some things down. He already has seven technicals. Because of COVID-19 safety protocols, the officiating crew was down one referee, forced to work with two instead of three. The Knicks apparently tried to challenge the Randle call but never got the message across in the allotted time, according to the referees.
On the play in dispute, Randle was flagged for a forearm into Harris’ back as the Long Islander got set for the rebound. With Harris dislodged, Knicks center Nerlens Noel snatched the carom.
It was waved off by the whistle and Harris had his free throws. And the Long Islander, who beat the Knicks five days ago with 30 points, made both in the clutch.
Randle answered one question postgame before storming off, claiming this rough-and-tumble defensive battle shouldn’t have been decided by such a meager act.
“Wrong call by the officials,’’ Randle said. “Not enough contact for them to call the play. I don’t know who it was — Nerlens [Noel] — but clearly he had possession. After all the fouling and everything that was going on, for them to call that and decide the game is f—–g ridiculous. They have to do a better job. It’s too many games like this.’’
Randle then walked off the Zoom call before he could be asked about the next play.
After Harris’ free throws, the Knicks star sped downcourt, got a decent look before his potential game-winner rimmed out at the buzzer. Randle finished the night shooting 7 of 21 — one of his worst shooting lines of his masterful season.
Thibodeau was raging, too, on the sidelines and even came onto the court at one juncture.
“They said we didn’t challenge,’’ Thibodeau said.
He also raised the idea Randle’s foul was not becoming of late-overtime battle.
“Usually at the end of the game, there’s going to be — as they would say — marginal contact, incidental contact, every other kind of contact,’’ Thibodeau said. “All I know is that we were getting hit a lot and there wasn’t marginal contact on that, so …’’
So what. If the Knicks’ argument is that you don’t call a foul in that situation, it’s not going to be overturned on video review. It’s a bloodless process.
From the mouths of babes came the remarks from 20-year-old RJ Barrett, who wasn’t going to go there.
“I just want to win,’’ Barrett said. “Referees or no referees, we got to win the game.’’
This was a terrific defensive dogfight as the Knicks warred on again without point guards Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton.
Thibodeau used swingman Alec Burks down the stretch to run the point. A Burks-led offense forced the Sixers into overtime and nearly squeaked this out with the swingman scoring 20 points.
The Knicks could feel angry, but on this day, it seemed off.
They aren’t Eastern foe Charlotte, which reportedly has lost its superstar rookie LaMelo Ball for the season with a fractured hand. And they aren’t the Lakers, who will be playing without LeBron James indefinitely after his high ankle sprain.
And they aren’t the Rockets, whose rookie coach Stephen Silas buried his face and could barely utter a sound Sunday when asked if the team’s 20-game losing streak was getting to his club.
At 21-22, the Knicks might have wanted to look at the bright side. They are starting to get healthy and Burks can soon go back to his regular position.
Rose could be back Tuesday versus Washington and an offense that mustered 85 points during regulation will be revived.
Center Mitchell Robinson made his return from a 15-game absence and was extremely rusty — blowing three usually automatic put-backs. Rookie Immanuel Quickley, after a one-game absence with an ankle sprain, started again and was not ready (4 of 12). The Knicks are best when Quickley is coming off the bench as a sixth man and aligned with Rose. It will happen soon.
Barrett admitted the locker room was an angry one.
“Everyone wants to win,’’ Barrett said. “When we lose, especially a game like this, a game we should’ve won, it’s a tough way to lose.’’
It’s also a tough way to overreact — Randle in particular.
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