The NBA has admitted to a blown foul call against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah during the final seconds of Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on May 10.
CavsNations.com’s Tomer Azarly broke the news on May 12.
This is just another bizarre twist in an exciting series punctuated by back-to-back buzzer beaters in Games 3 and 4 courtesy of former NBA MVPs Derrick Rose and LeBron James, respectively.
Add to the blown call against Noah is the fact his teammate, Bulls forward Taj Gibson, got tossed during the Cavs’ 106-101 win in Game 5 on Tuesday for kicking Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova.
It just goes to show everybody an NBA playoff series can turn from exciting to contentious just like that.
Let’s not forget Cavaliers head coach David Blatt could have been the goat in his team’s 86-84 win on Sunday. According to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, Blatt was about to take the floor to call a timeout after Rose knotted the count at 84 apiece in the waning seconds of Game 4:
Blatt wanted a timeout—but his team had burned enough through its final three setting up a play, then trying to inbound the basketball, with 18.8 seconds left. So when Blatt tried to signal for one after Rose’s basket, he came perilously close to earning a technical foul.
Video shows one ref, Scott Foster, on the far side of the floor from Blatt, preparing for the Cavs to put the ball in play. The other two, Tom Washington and Jason Phillips, appear to be heading into the backcourt.
And then Cleveland assistant coach Tyronn Lue can be seen grabbing Blatt.
‘Yes, I tried to call one and almost blew it,’ Blatt said. ‘Then they told me we didn’t have one.’
With that, Tyronn Lue should be the Cavaliers’ unsung hero should they go on to eliminate the Bulls. As for Chicago, its opponent was just one fatal mistake away from what could have been a comfortable 3-1 series lead.
Let’s hope the Bulls vs. Cavs playoff series doesn’t dissolve into something similar to the Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons playoff match-ups of the late 1980s or the New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat postseason battles of the late 1990s: Downright nasty.
NBA Admits A Foul Should Have Been Called On Joakim Noah In Game 4
According to a May 12 update from CavsNation.com’s Tomer Azarly, the NBA admitted to a missed foul call against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah in Game 4 on Sunday:
It wasn’t an easy victory, as the Cavs endured a foot sprain and left knee tendinitis from Kyrie Irving and a sprained ankle from LeBron James. In the end, LeBron hit the game-winning fadeaway jumper from the corner just before the fourth-quarter buzzer to give the Cavs their second win in the series.
Prior to that play, however, James dribbled the length of the floor and drove to the basket before getting hit by Joakim Noah and had the ball knocked out of his hands. James thought he was fouled, as did the rest of the Cavaliers, but the Cavs were simply awarded the ball out of bounds and the Cavs were given 1.5 seconds to shoot.
It turned out for the best as James hit the winner, but on Monday afternoon, the NBA announced that Noah should have been called for a foul and that LeBron should have been awarded two free throws.
Azarly cites a tweet from Cavaliers beat writer Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal to substantiate his claim:
League’s daily officiating report notes Blatt’s timeout error, but also concedes Noah should’ve been called for foul with 1.9 secs left
— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) May 11, 2015
The Parting Shot
It seems the missed foul call on Joakim Noah also set off another hot-button issue in the NBA playoffs.
According to ESPN Chicago Bulls beat reporter Nick Friedell, Game 4 officials reviewed the play involving Noah and James before the ball sailed out of bounds. The referees got in touch with the NBA’s replay center in Secaucus, N.J. to determine who they will give possession to.
The Cavs eventually got the ball back, setting up James’ buzzer beater which tied the series.
Friedell stresses Cleveland was able to get a de facto timeout while the officials were huddling up with the league’s replay center. ESPN NBA play-by-play commentators Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy both said during the Game 4 broadcast on Sunday they didn’t like the extra “timeout” the play review created.
Neither does Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, per ESPN Chicago:
The thing is, it’s what technology is doing to the league. I think the league itself, we’re trying to figure it out as we go. The intent is very good: It’s to get it right. Then you’re trying to figure out, OK, is there an advantage to be gained?
Maybe in those situations, particularly when a team doesn’t have a timeout, you don’t let them go to the bench. I think the league is still—this is the first time around with it, really, so we’re figuring that out.
I don’t like it in that sense. Obviously, it affected us in a negative way, but for the most part, I think the technology has been good.
Thibodeau also acknowledged to Friedell he saw Blatt try to call a timeout when he didn’t have one. However, the Bulls head coach says he understands the referees were locked in and it would have been hard for them to hear him had he jumped in and screamed at them.
Now, if a foul had been called on Noah, James would have trooped to the free-throw line for two shots because Chicago was already in the bonus.
Assuming LBJ sinks both free throws, the Cavs would have been up, 86-84, and the Bulls would have had to bring the ball down the length of the court because they, too, had no timeouts.
Unless the inbounder heaves a shotput-like pass for a layup on the other end, the Bulls would most likely have hurried down the floor and taken a low-percentage shot. With 1.5 seconds left and 94 feet to cover, it seems unlikely Chicago would convert on the opportunity.
Without the fall called on Noah, James made his buzzer beater and the series was even. Had he not made that corner jumper, Cleveland would have been staring at a 3-1 series deficit all because of a missed call on the Bulls center.
The simple takeaway is the NBA should improve its quality of officiating. Referees are human as everybody else, but for the league to admit it erred during a critical playoff game also tells us the officiating leaves much to be desired.
And yes, the replay rule should also be reviewed. The de facto timeout gave Cleveland a chance to regroup and essentially nullify the missed foul call because of James’ end-game heroics.
Adam Silver and his officiating crew have their work cut out for them this offseason.