It was one of the key moments at the end of game, another nail in the Bulls coffin in Game 4.
The Bulls were down 6 and there was 2:30 left when Derrick Rose was behind the three-point line, got defender Jamal Crawford up in the air then leapt into him as he shot to get the three point play. It looked like a foul. The whistle blew.
Then referee Bennett Salvatore walked over to the scorer’s table and said it was an inadvertent whistle. Jump ball. The Hawks got the ball off the tip, and that was the play where Josh Smith made the quick pass from the top of the key to Al Horford open underneath for the slam. That made it an eight-point lead and the Bulls never caught up.
After the game, Salvatore admitted he blew it, as reported by Steve Ascheburner at NBA.com.
“I blew my whistle. I was positive it was not a foul,” the veteran ref told a pool reporter. “I blew my whistle by accident, which is an inadvertent whistle. That’s why I disallowed it.
“Having watched the replay, it was a foul. I made a mistake. I was wrong.”
Credit to Salvatore for admitting the error.
And if you’re a Bulls fan that thinks that call was what cost you the game, I would like to point you to the night of below average defense and Derrick Rose’s tough night shooting. The Bulls lost because the Hawks outplayed them, not the refs.
When they came out of Florida, Al Horford was considered a better prospect than Joakim Noah. And with good reason, Horford has been the better all-around player as a pro — an All-Star with offensive game inside and out plus he is a quality defender (one of the better help rotating bigs around).
But this series, Joakim Noah has outplayed him. And if the Hawks are going to even this series and give themselves a chance to win it, Horford will have to change that.
Noah has pulled down 15 offensive boards over games two and three, and he has 29 boards overall through the two. He has been the most dominant force on the front line and it has swung the series.
The one game the Hawks won they had Joe Johnson hitting shots from in close, beyond the arc, Oak Park and everywhere else the Bulls left him open. They are going to need more of that, they are going to need Horford, they are going to need it all.
The Bulls just need Derrick Rose, whose ankle looks just fine aas he dropped 44 last time out in an epic effort. They also will need some points from Luol Deng and Noah to be Noah.
They shouldn’t expect much from Carlos Boozer, who confirmed that he has torn ligaments around his big toe (an injury commonly called turf toe) that is painful and will continue to slow him down for a while.
The Bulls defense the last couple games has really shut down the Hawks, and it’s hard to see how that is really going to change long-term in this series. The Bulls are the better team. But the Hawks can make it a three-game series with a win, and there they stand a puncher’s chance.