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Josh Hart slams the notion of Knicks getting preferential treatment; NBA fines Pacers’ Rick Carlisle

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Knicks? Getting preferential treatment from the officials?

Josh Hart couldn’t believe the premise.

That’s the claim Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle made after his team’s meltdown in their Game 2 loss to the Knicks. A Knicks team that lost Jalen Brunson to a sore foot for close to 16 minutes of game time in the first half, then lost OG Anunoby to a hamstring injury for the final minutes of the third period plus the entire fourth quarter, before the Pacers lost their head coach, who was ejected in the final frame for his verbal assault on officials as the Knicks ran away with a 130-121 victory to take a 2-0 series lead over the Pacers in the second round.

The NBA fined Carlisle $35,000 for “public criticism of the officiating and questioning the integrity of the league and its officials” Friday morning, after his post Game 2 rant included “small-market teams deserve an equal shot — they deserve a fair shot, no matter where they’re playing,” and “there’s not a consistent balance [in officiating], and that’s disappointing.”

Hart, who previously played for the small-market Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans, shot down Carlisle’s claim — that the NBA would rather see the mega-market Knicks make a deep playoff run over the small-town Pacers — after Knicks shoot around on Friday morning.

“F–k no. That’s so stupid, bro,” he said at the Pacers’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse eight-and-a-half hours ahead of tipoff on Friday. “I mean, we’re going to say the big market always wins? The Knicks ain’t won a chip in 51 years. So obviously that don’t hold much weight.

“I don’t fully understand that. Sorry, New York, for the reminder. But I think that’s just idiotic. At the end of the day, it’s who’s playing the best. I never seen a ref shoot a free throw or make a three or miss a rotation.”

Carlisle also asserted the Knicks, specifically Hart, attempted to take advantage of Tyrese Haliburton, the All-Star point guard and Pacers franchise cornerstone who has played through lower back spasms through the first two games of this second-round series.

“The whole world knows Haliburton’s got a bad back, and Hart comes up and shoves him in the back,” Carlisle said after Game 2. “It’s all over Twitter right now, because a few people have shown it to me. [Referee] JB DeRosa is looking right at it.”

Hart called Carlisle’s comments disrespectful.

“I don’t know what to say. If you look I hit the ball,” he said Friday morning. “Might I have bumped him a little bit? Yeah, I’m running full speed. He’s running full speed, and he’s in front of me. I’m trying to make a play on the ball.

“I mean, Rick’s saying whatever he feels. It has nothing to do with us. At the end of the day, I think it’s pretty disrespectful to us, because at the end of the day, we’re out there competing and playing at a high level. It’s not about officiating. It’s not about anything like that. For him to discredit how we’re playing, I feel like that’s pretty disrespectful.”

The Philadelphia 76ers followed a similar blueprint after falling down 0-2 in their first-round series against the Knicks.

They went as far as filing an official grievance after a wild Game 2 ending that included two uncalled fouls on Sixers star Tyrese Maxey on the game’s final possession. Maxey turned the ball over, and Donte DiVincenzo hit a game-winning three. The NBA’s Last Two Minutes Report showed the officials missed both calls on Maxey.

Hart thinks the Pacers are trying to follow the 76ers’ footsteps.

“Yeah, I think that stance, if that’s the stance that people try to do, I think it’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s not about who complains the most — small market, big market, whatever. It’s about going out there and playing the game and competing at a high level. I don’t think, especially last game, I don’t think you would have seen anyone on the court complained or yelled at the refs as much as I did. You know what I mean?

“But at the end of the day they’re human. They’re going to make good calls, going to make bad calls. They’re not going to make some calls. But at the end of the day that doesn’t effect how us as players should approach the game, how us as players play the game and it shouldn’t take away from anything that us or the other team is doing.”

KNICKS NOT PUNTING

Punt a game? The Knicks would never.

With an injury list piling by the day, some fans broached the idea that the Knicks — who are without Anunoby (hamstring) for Game 3 and possibly Game 4, and without Julius Randle (shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (ankle) and Bojan Bogdanovic (ankle) for the rest of the season — should give away Game 3 since Brunson is also battling a foot injury sustained in Game 2.

“Hell nah,” DiVincenzo said after shoot around Friday morning. “You can stop there. We ain’t punting nothing. We’re coming in here to win the game.”

MARATHON MAN

Hart became the first player to run a marathon — 26.2 miles — in an eight-game span since the NBA began tracking player distances traveled on the court.

“It means I’m in pretty good shape,” he said after shoot around. “It definitely means once this season’s over, for about three weeks, I’m gonna do nothing but just eat, drink wine and relax. That’s what that means.”

ON GUARD

Without Anunoby, Hart could be tasked with guarding up a position, taking turns on Pacers star forward Pascal Siakam or center Myles Turner.

“I was doing that all year,” he said. “You can ask them [the beat writers]: I complained about it for three-fourths of the year. But I mean, I feel like I can play wherever is needed. I don’t really mind it too much.”

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