Rockets sneak past Knicks after late, controversial foul call on Jalen Brunson that left Tom Thibodeau irate

Ryan Young

The Houston Rockets narrowly pulled out a win on Monday night thanks to a foul call at the buzzer that left both Jalen Brunson and New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau up in arms.

The Rockets, after Brunson hit a step-back jumper to tie the game up in the final seconds at the Toyota Center, had one last chance at a shot to grab the win on the other end. After a bad pass to Aaron Holiday near the top of the key as time was expiring, Holiday attempted to throw up a one-handed desperation heave.

As he did so, Brunson came flying through with a hand up to try and contest the shot. Brunson appeared to make minimal contact, and both players landed on their feet as the shot was off the mark.

Yet officials called Brunson for a foul, which sent Holiday to the free throw line where he gave the Rockets the 105-103 win. Both Brunson and Thibodeau looked completely confused by the call.

The Knicks didn’t have a challenge available to them, and replays of the final sequence didn’t show outrageous contact by Brunson.

Jalen Brunson was called for this foul with the game tied and the clock approaching zero.

Holiday hit 2 free throws and the Rockets won.

Fair or nah? 🧐

— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) February 13, 2024

Both Jalen Brunson and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau were stunned after a foul was called at the buzzer.

Both Jalen Brunson and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau were stunned after a foul was called at the buzzer. (Troy Taormina/USA Today)

To make matters worse for the Knicks, Thibodeau thought he had time to run one final play after Holiday’s free throws. But after a review, officials determined the game was in fact over — which sent Thibodeau off on a NSFW rant.

“That’s a tough way to lose a game. A tough way to lose a game,” Thibodeau said plainly after the game.

Thibodeau was asked directly about Brunson’s final close out, too, and he kept his answer very simple.

“If you look at the film, you see it,” he said. “It is what it is.”

Brunson, clearly not wanting to be fined, wasn’t willing to get into it.

Jalen Brunson fielded three questions about the foul to end the game. Each time, he had the same four-word response:

“Great call. Next question.”

— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) February 13, 2024

Regardless, the call stood and the Rockets got the win.

Brunson led the Knicks with 27 points and seven assists on the night. Dante DiVincenzo added 23 points, and Josh Hart finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The Knicks have now lost three straight and four of their last five games. They hold a 33-21 record with one game left before the All-Star break.

Dillon Brooks led Houston with 23 points after he shot 6-of-7 from the 3-point line. Jabari Smith Jr. added 20 points and seven rebounds, and Alperen Sengun finished with 18 points. The win snapped a four-game losing skid for the Rockets, who now hold a 24-29 record.