NEW YORK -- In keeping with the theme of the day, a favorable interpretation of the rules made Isiah Thomas a lucky man.
Timeless finish to a fine(d) day
Hours after being spared any punishment by commissioner David Stern for helping instigate the ugly Nuggets-Knicks brawl Saturday night, Thomas walked off the court at Madison Square Garden a stunned winner Monday night after Stephon Marbury sank a layup at the buzzer in overtime to give New York a 97-96 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Actually, however, Marbury's shot did not go through at the buzzer.
Replays showed the shot passed through the net with two- or three-tenths of a second left on the clock, although the clock expired and the red lights went off as though it was a true buzzer-beater.
The referees reviewed the play on video but did not put any time back on the clock. Not that they didn't realize their mistake, they just weren't allowed, under NBA rules dealing with video replays, to reset the clock.
"When we saw the ball go through the basket, the red lights came on and we saw no time," referee Ed Rush told Insider. "The only thing we can look at when we go to replay is was it a good basket. We can't put time back on unless there's an 8-second violation, a 24-second violation or a foul."
So the call stood, and the Knicks had one of their most quality victories of the season on one of their most tumultuous days of the year -- and that's saying something.
The day began with Thomas explaining at the Knicks' shootaround how he didn't actually threaten Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets when he told him not to go into the paint toward the end of Saturday night's game. Then, early in the afternoon, word came that despite video evidence of Thomas warning Anthony, and despite Anthony and Thomas' own statements to league investigators regarding the matter, Stern decided there was not enough evidence to punish Thomas.
So there Thomas was pacing the sideline in a blue suit and red power tie, emoting a look of utter disbelief after Marbury sank his basket on a drive from midcourt after the Jazz had gone ahead on a 22-footer by Deron Williams with 3.0 seconds left.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan did not argue over the extra time that came off the clock after Marbury's shot went through, saying he hadn't yet seen a replay. Told it appeared his team got cheated, he simply shrugged.
"That'll get you a toothpick and a glass of water if you're hungry," Sloan said, a comment that made about as much sense as everything else that went on around the Knicks on Monday.
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George Karl's lineup was trimmed by suspensions, but Earl Boykins (29 points) and Marcus Camby (25 points, 17 boards, 7 blocks) helped the nine-deep Nuggets earn a 117-108 win over the Wiz.
Chris Sheridan on the zero penalty levied on Isiah Thomas:
"My finding was that there was not adequate evidence upon which to make a determination," NBA commissioner David Stern said.
That's hogwash, if you ask me.
This one reeks of Stern doing a favor for Knicks owner James Dolan, heaping all the blame on the players and letting Thomas off without even so much as a public scolding.
All in all, it was a bad weekend for the NBA and a bad Monday for Stern. We've come to expect him to be a disciplinarian when circumstances call for it, but we expect him to be evenhanded.
By letting Thomas off, Stern came off as more disingenuous than disciplinarian, and that's as big a disappointment as the brawl itself.
Ryan Andover, MA: I think the bigger question in all of this is where was Early Boykins during all of this?
Bill Simmons: I think Boykins and Nate Robinson should have been obligated to fight, kind of like in an NHL brawl where the two goalies feel obligated to throw down. That would have been the greatest fight ever.
Brian, NYC: With regards to Boykins/Robinson fight, Nate was an NFL-caliber corner at Washington (and actually tackled people, not just a Deion cover-corner), have to give him the edge in that fight.
Bill Simmons: I'll tell you, I'd give Nate the edge in almost any fight. He's quick and angry and has a low level of gravity... how could anyone take him? He's like Mike Tyson in the late-80's. When I was growing up, one of the toughest guys in the league was Calvin Murphy, who was 5-foot-9 and got in fights all the time -- he coldcocked Sidney Wicks on the Celtics once. Wicks was like 6-foot-9. We really need somebody to make a "Top 100 NBA Fights" show. Name one friend in your life who wouldn't watch this.
Nati: (Laurel, MD): I don't think I can let you get away with this one. You said that Nate Robinson had a "low level of gravity." Like the moon? You may have meant "low center of gravity." Wow.
Bill Simmons: Come on, it's a chat, I'm typing at warp speed. Cut me some slack.
Bill Nye (NY): Well he probably has a low level of gravity as well since its proportionate to his mass, and he's about 160 soaking wet. I've got your back Simmons.
Bill Simmons: Thanks Bill Nye!
Charles (Miami): I think what everybody's missing from the Carmelo suspension is what could've happened had that punch done real damage (ala Rudy T). Luckily, he hits like a girl and Collins is fine. Otherwise, 15 games would be charity.
Bill Simmons: And that's the reason he got the suspension. Look, I'm fine with Melo getting 15 games, but then Isiah should get 15, so should Mardy Collins, so should Nate and so should JR Smith. To say that what Melo did was worse than anyone else is crazy. He was defending his teammate and made a mistake.
Chris, Seattle: The fact that everyone makes such a big deal about an NBA brawl and not so much about a MLB brawl smacks of racism, I don't care what people say.
Bill Simmons: Couldn't agree more. Everyone involved in this fight was black, so the players are now "out of control" and the whole thing is "a disgrace." But when a white baseball player charges a white pitcher, it's all in good fun. It's a little weird.
George Karl leaves his message at the beep
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, look on the bright side. No team has more wins (10) in the Atlantic Division than your Knicks.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
NOT OUT OF NOWHERE: Two NBA scouts have told me that in the period where the top high school players went straight to the NBA (basically from KG 'til 2005), the best prospect out of all the stars who chose college was David Lee (17 points, 20 rebounds Monday night). He has the incredibly rare combination of great athleticism, tremendous feel, and sticky hands. And in the pros he's added a stronger ticker.
FREEING DIRK: I love how Dallas coach Avery Johnson is mixing up the actions he's running for Dirk. Flat ball-screens from the top, side pick and pops, post-ups, iso's from the elbow, then baseline screens and screen-the-screeners to make his defenders run. Of course, Dirk's just as dangerous spotting up off someone else's drive. Bottom line: He's a nightmare to defend, thanks to his talent and Avery's plan.
-- David Thorpe
Ben (Silver Spring, MD): Let's not forget Kobe acting like a 12-year old after the game and calling out Arenas for taking bad shots ... talk about the pot calling the kettle black!!
John Hollinger: Yes, that was a bit jarring. I was waiting for Kwame Brown to follow it up by calling Jarvis Hayes a bust.
ROLLINGSTONE.com's "Playlist of the Day" feature Monday centered on the Nuggets-Knicks fight Saturday night.
The site has compiled the following list of "bare-knuckled fight songs": "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas; "Ballroom Blitz" by Sweet; "Havana Gang Brawl" by The Zutons; "Fight Song" by Marilyn Manson; "Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong" by Radiohead; and "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J.
They coulda thrown in Elton John's "Saturday Night's All Right (For Fighting)."
-- ESPN and wire services