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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Jelani Scott

Referees Admit Botching Pivotal Call in Celtics-Knicks Season Opener

The NBA issued a clarification on Thursday regarding a controversial and costly call made against Knicks guard Jalen Brunson late in Wednesday’s Celtics-Knicks game in New York.

The officiating crew for Boston’s 108–104 victory drew much criticism after calling a flopping technical foul on Brunson when it appeared he landed on Jayson Tatum’s foot after a three-point attempt with 6:40 left in the game. Instead, the missed foul led to a 21-16 Celtics run to seal the win after Tatum made the technical free throw.

In a statement from the National Basketball Referees Association, the organization admitted that the officials incorrectly penalized Brunson, who should’ve been awarded a potentially game-altering three free throws.

The explanation of the play read as follows:

“We missed the foot to foot contact which should have resulted in a personal foul and reviewed for flagrant. Had no foot to foot contact existed, this type of secondary and theatrical movement by Brunson would meet the criteria for a non-unsportsmanlike technical foul for flopping. It is possible to have a foul and a flop on the same play, but the foot to foot contact is what causes Brunson’s movement and no flop should have been called.”

Given the constant conversation surrounding foul calls and flopping, Thursday’s update added another entry to the league’s growing list of referee snafus that have later been corrected upon review.

Unfortunately for Brunson and New York, the sequence may also end up making a different in the standings, even though the 2023–24 season is only two days old.

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