There was less than a minute left and the Knicks were down by 18 points to the Memphis Grizzlies at the Garden on Wednesday night.
Then all heck broke out.
A lazy inbounds pass was rolling around on the floor when Memphis’ Jae Crowder ran in, stole the ball, ran behind the three-point line opposite the Grizzlies’ bench, and hoisted up a three-pointer.
Knicks guard Elfrid Payton rushed at Crowder and knocked him to the ground with his forearm. Crowder bounced up and before you knew it the Knicks and Grizzlies were involved in a brawl, or a fracas, or a scuffle, or whatever you’d like to call something with some pushing and shoving and a lot of barking.
When it was over, Payton, Crowder and Marcus Morris of the Knicks were ejected and the Grizzlies completed a 127-106 victory as fans started chanting — loudly — “sell the team.”
Crowder didn’t talk after the game. Payton said he had no regrets and that Crowder’s actions were “disrespectful.”
Knicks interim coach Mike Miller said, “We lost our composure there and we’ve got to do a better job in those situations.”
Morris, the only other Knicks player to speak to the media, questioned Crowder’s manhood and, in doing so, insulted women everywhere. More than once. (About an hour later, he apologized on Twitter.)
“That dude, he plays the game a different way,” Morris said. “Like, he’s got a lot of female tendencies on the court. Flopping and just throwing his head back the entire game. Like I said, it’s a man’s game and you just get tired of it, man. Obviously, at the end, that was very unprofessional. They’re winning the game. That’s a good team and you know, he does stuff like that.”
When Morris was asked which part of Crowder’s play he found unprofessional, he said: “The steal was cool. You got the steal. It is what it is. But when you step back and shoot a three, you know what I’m saying, and then try to, like, rub it in that they’re winning, it’s just unprofessional. It’s soft, his game is soft, he’s soft. That’s how he carries [himself]. It’s just very woman-like.”
At 11:20 p.m., Morris posted an apology on Twitter.
“I apologize for using the term “female tendencies,” he wrote. “I have the [utmost] respect for women and everything they mean to us. It was a Heat of the moment response and I never intended for any Women to feel as though in anyway I’m disrespecting them. Again I apologize with my comments.”
The NBA is likely to issue fines and suspensions for the players involved in the brawl.
Payton said he wasn’t having a problem with Crowder until the final minute.
“Just disrespectful,” Payton said. “The steal — I ain’t worried about a steal — and then you run your offense and you shoot a three at the end of the game, that’s different. That shot . . . disrespectful. All that other stuff is part of the game. But that was disrespectful. I had no problem with him all game.”
Of the shove, Payton said: “I’m standing on that. I would do it again. It doesn’t matter who took that shot. You don’t disrespect the game like that.”
As for the game, the Knicks fell behind by 22 points in the third quarter and pulled to within 10 early in the fourth before the Grizzlies pulled away. Memphis squared its record at 24-24 and improved to 11-3 in January.
Dillon Brooks led Memphis with 27 points. Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant had 18 points and 10 assists.
The Knicks, who were led by Morris’ 17 points, fell to 13-36. Julius Randle scored 16 with 15 rebounds and Payton and Damyean Doston had 15 points apiece.