Jalen Brunson attempted to illustrate to the referees that he was fouled while driving to the basket in Thursday’s first half by smacking himself in the head several times as he retreated back down the court.
Later in the game, the Knicks’ newly minted All-Star literally was smacked in the face by Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, also without a call made by the officials.
Brunson actually ranks 20th in the NBA in free-throw attempts with 6.2 per game this season entering Friday’s league action, but coach Tom Thibodeau insists those numbers should be much higher.
“Well, most of us could tell [it was a foul],” Thibodeau said about the Nembhard-Brunson play in the fourth quarter. “It’s bang-bang, but it’s like — the guy, his resolve is so great. He takes a beating. I think he needs to be protected.
“There were several plays in which he got hit, and if it’s a foul, it’s a foul. Call it. But at that point in the game, it’s just … what can you say? He comes right back on the next play and hits an and-1. Referees sometimes are not perfect. None of us are. So they miss it, they missed it. Move on. And that’s what I like about Jalen. He goes to the next play. And I think that’s critical.”
Brunson, as usual, declined comment on the refs after Thursday’s game. Thibodeau had said in December that he was “sick and tired” of the refs ignoring contact against his point guard.
LeBron James and the Lakers (25-25) make their lone visit to the Garden this season Saturday night, one game after they downed the league-leading Celtics on the road despite James (ankle soreness) and Anthony Davis (hip, Achilles) sitting out with injuries.
Both All-Stars have been listed as questionable against the Knicks.
Former Knick Cam Reddish is out with a sprained ankle, and forward Jarred Vanderbilt is expected to miss several weeks with a foot injury suffered in Boston.
Quentin Grimes will miss his second straight game for the Knicks with a sprained right knee.
OG Anunoby (elbow inflammation) remains listed as questionable after sitting out the past three games.