Josh Hart #3 of the Knicks puts up the game winning...

Josh Hart #3 of the Knicks puts up the game winning shot against Jalen Duren #0 of the Detroit Pistons with seconds remaining in the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

If there is a basketball god — someone higher up than the NBA executives still weighing the Knicks’ protest of an incorrect last-second call that cost them a game in Houston — then the Knicks can call it even after the last seconds of a frantic 113-111 win over the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

Trailing by a point in the final seconds, the Knicks misfired on a shot, stole the ball and then threw it away, seemingly doing all they could to seal their fate against the NBA’s worst team. Then, in a chaotic sequence, they made up for all of it.

“I’ve been a part of some crazy stuff that’s happened playing basketball,” Josh Hart said. “Whether it’s the basketball gods or not, crazy things happen in an 82-game season.”

Donte DiVincenzo, who had thrown the ball directly to Ausar Thompson, dived for the ball as Thompson started upcourt, knocking it loose as he slammed into Thompson’s legs.

Jalen Brunson, who had missed a three-pointer seconds earlier, picked it up with just over five seconds left, calmly navigated the defense and found Hart cutting to the rim. Hart converted a tough layup, drew a foul on Jalen Duren and later added a free throw to finish off the last-gasp win.

Actually, the last gasp came from Detroit coach Monty Williams, who went on a rant as hard-hitting as the game — even before the officials in a pool report admitted they’d blown the call.

“The absolute worst call of the season,” he said after his team fell to 8-49. “No call, and enough’s enough.

“We’ve done it the right way. We’ve called the league. We’ve sent in clips. We’re sick of hearing the same stuff over and over again.

“We had a chance to win the game, and the guy dove into Ausar’s legs, and there was a no-call. That’s an abomination. You cannot miss that in an NBA game. Period. And I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of our guys asking me, ‘What more can we do, Coach?’

“That situation is exhibit A to what we’ve been dealing with all season long. You cannot dive into a guy’s legs in a big-time game like that and there be a no-call. It’s ridiculous and we’re tired of it.

“We just want a fair game called, period, and I’ve got nothing else to say. We want a fair game called, and that was not fair. I’m done.”

Crew chief James Williams, in the pool report interview, said, “Upon postgame review, we determined that Thompson gets to the ball first and then was deprived of the opportunity to gain possession of the ball. Therefore, a loose-ball foul should have been whistled on New York’s Donte DiVincenzo.”

The Knicks, for their part, mostly took a see-no-evil approach to describing it.

“I don’t know what situation you’re talking about,” said Brunson, who led the Knicks (35-23) with 35 points and 12 assists.

When it was directly clarified that the question was about the collision that drew Williams’ ire, he paused silently for a moment before adding, “Just going to not say a word here.”

“You respect everyone’s opinion,” DiVincenzo said. “You can go back the whole game and nitpick calls. Do I think we dodged a bullet overall? Yes. I have great respect for Monty and everybody over there. Like I said, we dodged a bullet with the win. And whatever the opinions are, that’s fine.”

The Knicks needed to scramble to survive after Quentin Grimes nearly did them in while making his first appearance against them since the deal at the Feb. 8 trade deadline that sent him to the Pistons. He had all 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, and he blew by Isaiah Hartenstein and scored over two defenders at the rim to give Detroit a 111-110 lead with 37.3 seconds left.

Then came the wild final sequence, and after hitting the layup that gave the Knicks the lead, Hart missed the free throw but was fouled again with 1.3 seconds left. He hit the first and missed the second, but he got the rebound and time ran out. Then they made their way to the locker room as Williams raged at the officials.

“I went for the ball,” DiVincenzo said. “I didn’t look at the play. You turn the ball over, the ball is in front of you and you go after the ball. Like I said, I respect everyone’s opinion. I can’t speak on it until I look at the film.”

“I saw it from directly in the view behind us,” Grimes said. “I saw two guys ran into him, into his legs. Like you said, it was not a guarantee. If JB and them was on the other side of that call, they getting that call.

“But it’s just a respect thing. You gotta earn your way. You gotta earn them stripes. You gotta get to the playoffs, win some games. So stuff like that, where you just gotta earn respect in this league. We’ll get there, for sure.”

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