Down 18 points with 48 seconds left in regulation, Elfrid Payton ran up to Crowder and shoved him into the first row of the courtside seats after the veteran forward shot and missed a wide-open 3-point attempt.
"I think the dude (Crowder) plays the game a different way. He's got a lot of female tendencies on the court,” New York’s Marcus Morris Sr. said. “Flapping and throwing his head back the entire game. This is a man's game and you just get tired of it."
A short time later, Morris apologized for his initial comments.
"I apologize for using the term 'female tendencies,'" Morris posted on Twitter. “I have the upmost 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 for my comments.”
The confrontation cast a shadow over a strong performance by Dillon Brooks, who scored 27 points, and Ja Morant, who had 18 points and 10 assists, as the Grizzlies cruised to their fourth straight victory, beating the Knicks 127-106 on Wednesday night.
Payton admitted he would do it all over again and knock Crowder, or any other player, to the ground if they attempt to tack on points with the game out of reach.
"That shot was disrespectful,” Payton said. "I'm standing on that. I'd a did it again. Doesn't matter who took that shot. Don't disrespect the game like that."
Tempers flared just moments after Brooks hit a 3-pointer that extended the lead 124-106 and celebrated near the Knicks bench.
On the ensuing play, Julius Randle stood underneath the basket and passed the ball to an unaware Payton, who had his back turned. The ball bounced loosely on the floor and Crowder picked it up and ran towards the 3-point line.
Crowder’s shot bounced off the rim as he was sent crashing towards the seats.
Fortunately, most of the area where Crowder landed was unoccupied after the fans had filed out of Madison Square Garden before another loss was final in a what has turned out to be another disappointing season for the Knicks.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins, who appeared to have been shoved by one of the Knicks players while trying to play peacemaker, credited the officiating crew for quickly restoring order.
“Obviously it can be whole lot worse, but a lot of credit to (the referees), Josh (Tiven) and Ray (Acosta) and Ashley (Moyer-Gleich) for handling that really well,” Jenkins said.
Crowder, who was ejected, did not address the media after the game.
Morris Sr. was also ejected for instigating the fight. Payton was assessed a flagrant 2 foul, which carried an automatic ejection.
“The bottom line is we lost our composure in there and we gotta do a better job in those situations,” Knicks interim coach Mike Miller said.
The victory put Memphis at .500 (24-24) for the first time in almost 13 months.
Jonas Valenciunas had 12 points and 13 rebounds and Crowder finished with 18 points and eight assists for the Grizzlies, who have won 11 of their last 13 games.
Randle had 16 points and 15 rebounds, and Payton finished with 15 points and 11 assists for New York, which has lost seven of 10.
Coming off a home win over Denver on Tuesday night, Memphis distanced itself from New York by scoring seven straight points to start the third quarter for a 66-52 lead.
The Grizzlies increased their lead to 82-60 on three free throws with 6:62 left in the period after Knicks reserve guard Reggie Bullock protested a foul call as Morant went up for a shot and picked up a technical foul.
It was Morant’s first game in The Garden in what has been an emotional week for the Memphis star rookie, who was saddened by Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday.
Playing in the same arena where Bryant once scored 61 points on Feb. 2, 2009, Morant wowed the crowd, finishing an alley-oop dunk early in the game as he displayed his offensive and athletic abilities.
“I felt like everybody knows Madison Square Garden is a place to play,” he said. “Just happy to be able to go out here with my teammates and get a win.”
New York cut the lead 96-86 on a pair of free throws by Wayne Ellington to start the fourth quarter. Memphis then pulled away with a 7-0 spurt, moving out to a 103-86 lead on a layup by Jackson Jr. with 9:56 left in regulation.
Brooks finished the first half with 19 points, shooting 7 for 10 from the floor, to help the Grizzlies build a 59-52 lead at the end of the second quarter.
Grizzlies: The last time Memphis had a .500 record was Dec. 31, 2018, following a loss at Houston that evened their record at 18-18. The defeat was the second of six straight. … Each starter finished in double figures. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 10 points. … Reserve Brandon Clarke had 17 points.
Knicks: Marcus Morris scored 17 points. ... Miller said point guard Frank Ntilikina did not play because of a groin injury.
Grizzlies: Visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
Knicks: Visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.
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