Knicks hope good fortune carries on vs. Pelicans

Two weeks after they were on the wrong end of a controversial call, the New York Knicks might have avoided their worst loss of the season thanks to a similarly contentious sequence.

The Knicks will look to build off a frantic last-second victory when they conclude a back-to-back home set Tuesday night by hosting the New Orleans Pelicans.

Josh Hart capped a chaotic possession by converting a layup with 2.1 seconds left Monday night to lift the Knicks past the visiting Detroit Pistons, 113-111. The Pelicans completed a four-game homestand Sunday by falling to the Chicago Bulls 114-106.

The Pistons, who have the NBA’s worst record at 8-49, led 111-110 with 21 seconds left when Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson missed a 3-pointer. Quentin Grimes, whom New York traded to Detroit on Feb. 8, saved the ball from going out of bounds and threw a no-look pass to Simone Fontecchio.

The Pistons’ forward collided with Brunson and Hart and lost the ball, which was picked up by New York center Isaiah Hartenstein. He dished to Donte DiVincenzo, whose pass for Brunson was knocked away by Ausar Thompson, who dribbled once before losing control and colliding with DiVincenzo. Brunson picked up the ball and made a no-look pass to Hart, who hit a layup as he was fouled by Jalen Duren.

Hart missed the free throw but drew another foul while Hartenstein grabbed the rebound. Hart hit a free throw with one second left, missed the second attempt and collected the rebound as time expired.

The win was just the third in the last nine games for the Knicks — a stretch that includes a 105-103 loss to the Houston Rockets on Feb. 12 in which Brunson was whistled for fouling Aaron Holiday on a desperation 3-pointer with the teams tied and less than a second left. Holiday hit two free throws and New York filed a protest the next day.

The crew officiating the Feb. 12 game acknowledged a foul should not have been called. On Monday — when Pistons head coach Monty Williams called the no-call “…an abomination” — crew chief James Williams said DiVincenzo should have been whistled for a foul on Thompson.

“You can go back the whole game and nitpick calls,” DiVincenzo said after the Knicks moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the idle Philadelphia 76ers in the race for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. “Do I think we dodged a bullet overall? Yes.”

The undermanned Pelicans weren’t as fortunate Sunday. New Orleans led 82-70 lead with 2:40 left in the third quarter before the Bulls went on a 38-19 run to go ahead 108-101 with less than two minutes left in the fourth.

Herbert Jones, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas combined to score five straight points within a 58-second span to pull the Hornets within 108-106. But DeMar DeRozan hit a second-chance 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to begin a game-ending 6-0 run for the Bulls.

The loss dropped the Pelicans into a tie with the Phoenix Suns for the final two guaranteed playoff spots in the Western Conference. New Orleans played Sunday without the injured CJ McCollum as well as backups Jose Alvarado and Naji Marshall, who were serving their one-game suspensions for their actions in Friday’s brawl with the Miami Heat.

“We can’t use that as an excuse,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. “We can come down and execute. We can come down and make simple plays.”