New York Knicks forward Julius Randle had to be held back by his teammates from confronting Scott Foster after the veteran referee called a travel on him in the final seconds of New York’s 117-112 road loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
“It was a conversation, but I think it’s just best that I just don’t comment on the situation,” Randle said afterward. “There was a lot of frustration behind it, and — I mean from both sides — so I’ll just let it be in the past and move on to the next game.
“It was just frustrating. Obviously, we fought so hard to come back and try to win the game. So I was just frustrated. And that was pretty much it. But we have another opportunity to go at it tomorrow. So just focus on that.”
Randle had a chance to tie the score in the closing seconds when he rose up to take a 3-pointer with five seconds to go. But Nets star Kyrie Irving managed to hit the ball on the way up, causing Randle to juggle it and fail to get the shot off.
“We had a play designed, obviously, and I thought Ky was going to come up and foul right away, so I tried to go a little bit quicker,” Randle said. “But the play happened — whatever happened is what it is, and it’s in the past.”
As a result, when he tried to dribble the ball on the way down to the ground, he was called for a travel by Foster with 3.2 seconds to go.
After James Harden received the inbounds pass and knocked down a couple of free throws to seal the win for Brooklyn, which has now won 13 of its past 14 games, Randle was still furious with Foster. He had to be held back by rookie Obi Toppin, among others, when he tried to go over to Foster after the game.
Randle, who finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in 41 minutes, was eventually coaxed off the floor, in part by Knicks executive William Wesley, although he knocked over a chair on his way out of the lower bowl as he marched back to the visiting locker room.
“I was either gonna foul early, but I saw him lining up for a jump shot,” said Irving, who led all scorers with 34 points. “I felt I could get a good hand on it. Scott called travel. I thought Julius made a good play afterwards putting it down. I was gonna foul him after that just to get him to the free throw line.
“That’s how it looked. That’s how it went.”
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, on the other hand, wasn’t as magnanimous.
“I thought it was a tough call,” Thibodeau said. “I thought we had a lot of tough calls down the stretch.”
Foster explained after the game why the travel call was made.
“The defender was deemed to touch the ball but not cause it to be dislodged or loose,” he told the pool reporter. “Upon that, when the player alights, he cannot purposely drop the ball or dribble the ball or be first to touch after he dropped the ball.”
In its Last Two Minute Report, the NBA said Foster was correct in his ruling.
The furor surrounding the call against Randle overshadowed a wild comeback by the Knicks, who trailed 115-108 with 28.6 seconds remaining only to force two jump balls by tying up Harden and Joe Harris on back-to-back possessions.
Ultimately, though, Irving’s play ensured that Brooklyn was victorious in the Battle of the Boroughs.
“I think as players we feel it naturally,” Irving, who was a Nets fan growing up in Northern New Jersey, said of the rivalry between the Knicks and Nets.
“But obviously, being from here, it’s a little bit of a different sentiment, because I got to go home and actually be around Knicks and Nets fans. It’s my family. So, it’s basketball, it’s competition. It’s a world sport. So, it’s just nothing but respect. But obviously, you want to come out here and just have fun going against the New York Knicks. They’ve been playing well this season. It’s a well-coached team, and just appreciate the opportunity.”