It’s not that the Bulls got hosed by officials Monday night. They did. The refs choked a basket interference call at the end of overtime that cost the home team a win against the Nuggets.
No, the bigger issue is the officials who appeared to have choked the call refused to explain their seemingly inexplicable actions on Joakim Noah’s spectacularly athletic and clutch tip-in compared to Kosta Koufos’ similar play moments earlier.
In Koufos’ case, the ball was on the rim when the Nuggets player put it through, but the officials told Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau they didn’t call basket interference in real time, so the play could not be reviewed.
In Noah’s case, the Bulls center redirected Marco Bellinelli’s shot that appeared to be headed for the rim, certainly not the bottom of the net, but the refs again did not appear to call basket interference in real time, so it should not have been reviewable and the Bulls should’ve had a one-point lead with 1.7 seconds remaining.
But wait. The refs not only reviewed the play during a timeout, but overturned the call. Bring me the head of Ken Mauer.
Here’s the lame explanation that Mauer offered on behalf of his officiating crew to a pool reporter: “If we deem the ball in its descent has a chance to score, and therefore it’s on the cylinder, it’s either offensive basket interference or it’s goaltending. That’s it.’’
Yes, that was it. That was all that Mauer would say. He would not explain why his crew reviewed the play when it had not called basket interference in real time. He would not say anything else, period, now go away, kid, ya bother me.
Bulls fans apparently will have to pay a lot more than $400 a ticket -- do you really need both lungs? -- if you want refs to deign to answer for themselves in screwing your team.
One thing I’ve always disliked about the NBA and its refs -- besides Dick Bavetta’s refusal to call a foul on the home team since, like, ever -- is the league’s over-protection of its officials, as if the officials weren’t adult enough to explain themselves.
Used to be, you couldn’t even say hi to the refs. If you looked directly at Steve Javie, you turned to salt. Good luck trying to get a full explanation the way Monday night’s game-turning call demanded. The NBA bought the cone of silence from Maxwell Smart and CONTROL. NBA refs had a starting backcourt of bad and uncommunicative.
Now the NBA allows a pool reporter to get an explanation from a ref, but Monday night the quote was just that -- singular -- and embarrassingly incomplete.
Hawk Harrelson might hate every umpire who works a White Sox game, and everyone in baseball hates the tubby and argumentative Joe West, but at least the arbiters of that sport will answer every question after a game.
“Here’s what I saw, here’s why I made the call, blah, blah blah.’’ You still might think the ump is an idiot, but at least he explained himself.
There is zero chance -- zero -- that an NBA ref would turn into Jim Joyce after Joyce honestly explained he blew the call at first base that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game several years ago. In this video, Joyce goes more than six minutes in discussing his mistake. Mauer’s explanation might’ve taken six seconds. Thanks for your time, pal.
Joyce ripped himself worse than any manager or writer could. He stood there and explained the mess he made. He took full blame. He didn’t have David Stern’s manifesto that hustles the refs back in their lair to deprive fans of the kind of explanation they deserve.
OK, that said, the call that wiped out Noah’s hero act was not necessarily the reason the Bulls lost to the Nuggets. The Bulls arguably decided the game in the first 45 minutes or so with no interest or discipline in stopping Denver’s fast break and an utter refusal to defend the Nuggets in the paint.
The Bulls got hosed because they put themselves in a position to let bad officials hose them. Rebound, fellas. Guard somebody, why dontcha?