Tom Thibodeau Reacts to Knicks Key Player’s Ejection in Dismal Loss to Bulls

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau

Getty Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks reacts.

Josh Hart‘s ejection in the first half left a bad taste in the mouth of New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau as they fell to his former team, Chicago Bulls, 108-100 on Friday, April 6, which kept them from jumping to No. 3 in the East.

“He’s a key player particularly when teams are loading up on Jalen,” Thibodeau told reporters after the disappointing loss. “We can’t afford to do that. There’s a fine line. Josh has been terrific for us. But our margin of error is very tight right now. We need to get past any distractions. It’s a tough call. But it’s tougher to lose it. But it is what it is. We got to learn from it.”

Hart was ejected with 34.1 seconds left in the first quarter after he kicked Bulls’ hero of the night Javonte Green on the side of his head on his way down after getting swiped off the ball.

Scott Foster Explains Josh Hart’s Ejection

Hart and the Knicks argued it was not intentional. But that didn’t matter in the end when the referees led by crew chief Scott Foster decided it was the right call, though a tough one, to eject Hart.

“By rule, we considered the act unnecessary and excessive, therefore it’s a flagrant foul penalty 2,” Foster said in the NBA official pool report. “Intent is not a criteria for what we do when we are ruling on a flagrant foul penalty 2 or 1. However, wind up, impact and follow through, potential for injury, whether the act was a non-basketball play, and location of the contact as well as whether we thought it was a reckless act are all the criteria that we felt were met for this decision.”

Foster added it took them time to decide on it because “we understood the impact of our decision on the game.” He explained further all three referees should unanimously agree when they eject a player so they had to look at it from multiple angles. 

Knicks Got Outrebounded Without Josh Hart

Without Hart, the Bulls dominated the glass, outrebounding the Knicks 57-38.

Entering the game, Hart was averaging 10.8 rebounds with 12.2 points and 6.0 assists per game since he replaced the injured Julius Randle as their starting power forward. His loss doomed the Knicks, who trailed by as many as 20 points.

Hart wound up with only 1 rebound and 1 assist in his shortest stint since a season-low 8 minutes after also getting ejected on December 16 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks as usual with 35 points and 11 assists. Miles McBride added 19 off the bench while OG Anunoby had 12 points in 29 minutes in his return after a nine-game absence due to elbow inflammation.

But they couldn’t stop the Bulls, especially their unheralded but athletic guards Javonte Green, who scored a career-high 25 points off the bench, and Chicago native Ayo Dosunmu, who led their starters with 24 points.

Knicks Need to ‘Wake Up’

The loss prevented the Knicks from separating from the Orlando Magic for the third seed in the East and getting within one game of the No.2 Milwaukee Bucks.

All three teams lost on the same night.

“They played with more energy and more pace than we did,” Brunson lamented. “That’s two games in a row where we were down big early. We just can’t allow that to happen.”

Unlike the previous night when they successfully battled back from an early 21-point deficit, they had no legs on the second consecutive night.

Asked what they need to do to prevent those slow starts, Brunson kept it simple and short.

“Wake up,” Brunson replied.


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