A call most foul puts Bulls in a bad mood


Dec 16

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

This is how bad that phantom foul call was with 19.2 seconds left and which enabled the Charlotte Bobcats to tie the game in regulation with three free throws.

Derrick Rose almost said, “aw shucks.”

It’s not the sole reason the Bulls Tuesday lost in overtime 110-101 to a Charlotte team on a seven game losing streak that was trailing by a dozen points nine minutes to the game coming off a loss in Atlanta Monday night in which they couldn’t reach 80 points with their leading scorer Tuesday at a funeral, another starter already ejected for calling a referee a very bad name and not seeming to care in front of a gathering that couldn’t have been more than 4,000.

“It was a messed up game,” said Rose, who was as messed up as he’s been so far shooting three of 16 for six points. “We couldn’t run our play sets. Couldn’t get in a groove.”

Couldn’t defend a redwood or stop any of several little people running to the basket, namely D.J. Augustin and Raymond Felton of the Bobcats.

Yet despite all that, the Bulls were leading 94-91 after Ben Gordon drove lefhanded for a score with 35.3 seconds left. The Bobcats seemed in disarray, ignoring coach Larry Brown’s request for a timeout and then running so much time off Brown waved them on. So the 4-foot 6-inch Augustin (or so it seemed), who ended with 29 points, pulled up on the left side above the three point line and shot.

“I must have blinked too hard,” said Rose with a laugh afterward, the felony so outrageous to the Bulls at this point well after the game they apparently could only laugh. “I didn’t even jump. I put my hand up and that’s what they called. You cannot call that, especially not at the end of a game. But it is what it is. We lost. He (referee Eli Roe) said I hit him on the arm. It must have been in motion or something.”

Eli had quite the night, actually.

About seven minutes into the game Eli dramatically ejected Bell after Bell, according to courtside listeners, used several choice epithets aimed at Eli that would have generally caused a serious street brawl. Though I’m told Bell’s explanation is truth always is the proper defense.

Anyway, back to The Foul.

The foul was in front of the Bulls bench, which went into hysterics with the call as Augustin would hit all three free throws to tie the game at 94 and Rose’s drive to try to win the game was blocked by Emeka Okafor. Rose danced off to the side and then ran back toward Eli, having to be restrained by teammates.

Asked if he’d ever been that upset in a game in his life, the generally emotionless Rose, agreed: “No. Never. Not at all.

“It really got to me,” said Rose. “I felt, ‘I can’t believe it.’ I was in awe. I didn’t believe you can make a call like that. I guess he did.”

To be learned from that?

“I’m not even reaching at the end of the game,” said Rose.

I didn’t think it was a foul, and when I asked Augustin after the game, he caught himself when I asked where he was hit.

“My elbow,” he said. “My hand. That’s why it was short. The ref called a good call, so I shot the free throws.”

Augustin was really good, by the way, though I still would have taken Brook Lopez No. 9 at Charlotte’s spot in the draft. With Lopez and Okafor, who had 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks (seemingly all on Rose), the Bobcats would have something going up front.

Though the way Augustin kept darting into the lane (13-13 on free throws), it looked like there was another inside presence.

I know the Bulls aren’t a very good defensive team. And it isn’t Rose’s specialty yet. But, geez, 43 free throws to 19? Actually, I rarely blame foul calls or the referees for any loss, and I wouldn’t this time.

Coach Vinny Del Negro kept saying after the game the team had its chances, though it was without much conviction. He seemed shocked by the loss and the foul call, the first such occasion in his coaching tenure in which he had to work hard—and succeeded—in avoiding one of those referee bashing fines.

“I didn’t think Derrick… we watched the film,'” Del Negro said haltingly in his first comments after the game, very emotional.

But he settled down quickly and regained his voice.

“I thought Derrick was right on him,” said Del Negro. “I didn’t think he hit him. Augustin’s legs came out to get the contact. We can’t worry about it. We can’t put ourselves in that position. No question it was a tough call against us. You move on.”

Yes, that’s a ridiculous time to bail out a team, and it seemed to me Augustin shot and leaned in, banging Rose’s hand with his hand. Technically, it could have been an offensive foul call.

But the Bulls did have a chance again, and with Tyrus Thomas playing well again with 22 points on nine of 16 shooting, nine rebounds and four blocks, it seemed the Bulls should have had every opportunity to take the game in overtime.

“They were aggressive in the middle on us with penetration,” said Del Negro. “We had some good efforts from guys, some not so good efforts overall. If you put yourself in that position sometimes you get bit. And we got bit.”

Thomas opened the overtime with a 17 footer for a lead, but Okafor backed in and got himself a three-point play. Drew Gooden, who was hitting big shots all game for 14 points and nine rebounds, spun inside for a basket. Though Okafor again got inside when the defense broke down and Gooden went to help. Thomas tied the game at 100 with two free throws, hitting all four he attempted. But Felton was fouled on a drive and made a free throw, Ben Gordon, who again led the Bulls with 25, missed a long one from on top and then Felton came back with a 20 footer.

When Okafor got another of Rose’s drives, the 8-18 Bobcats came back with Augustin driving and being fouled and suddenly the Bulls were down five with under a minute left and nothing good happened. Andres Nocioni couldn’t find anyone to pass to after a timeout and launched a 30 footer and that was about it.

“We lost control the last quarter,” said Nocioni. “We played the kind of game Charlotte wanted. We had the opportunity to win. We did not close the game. We need to win this kind of game. That’s it. This was a game we could win. There were a lot of free throws. Our defense was not good.”

There really was little defense, in many ways, for what happened.

The Bulls got another good effort from Thomas and Joakim Noah, though the latter playing just under 16 minutes, was very good, making clever bounce passes out of the post for baskets and getting seven points and six rebounds, five on the offensive boards.

“We’ve got to finish teams off,” said Thomas. “No disrespect to Charlotte, but we had the game. We didn’t take advantage. Drew and Lu were in foul trouble (and Deng also went out with cramps from his flu symptoms and made seven of eight shots in playing just 28 minutes). But that’s a game we’ve got to win. I played pretty well. But we have to execute on defense. I feel like we worry about offense too much. We have to lock down and focus on defense.”

Heck, the Bobcats even had to start ancient Juwan Howard, who had a solid eight points. The Bulls still led by 10 late in the first half after Thomas, with 10 points in the second quarter, drove by a flatfooted Okafor for a layup. But someone named Ryan Hollins got a jumper and an assist and around a Boris Diaw three the Bobcats were back in trailing 45-42 in a half it seemed the Bulls dominated.

The Bobcats pulled ahead with a 9-0 run midway through the third stopped when Noah scored on an active sequence when he got two offensive rebounds. And it looked like the Bulls would take control leading 84-80 with six minutes left on a good jumper as Rose dropped the ball off after drawing a double team.

But on an inbounds with three seconds left right in front of the Bulls bench Felton hit a 20 footer as Del Negro jumped up in anguish and then the coach grabbed his head in his hands as Gooden threw away a pass to Rose.

Okafor then tipped in a Diaw miss and Charlotte hung in long enough to get that fortunate foul call, the Bulls again failing in a chance to get to .500 and falling to 11-13.

Afterward, the players were advised to hurry because of bad weather in Chicago and the team’s charter had a takeoff slot reserved and they had to get there fast. Though no one moved too fast as there were mostly stunned expressions, still.

“The entire game was discouraging,” said Gordon. “This team played last night and for whatever reason from the beginning we kept making unforced errors, little stupid stuff and it came back to bite us at the end. They were really flat. The game was there for us. The whole game was disappointing start to finish. We were kind of out of it or whatever. For whatever reason we lacked the energy. We were not ourselves.”

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