Bulls vs. Heat: Missed Free Throws, Inadvertent Whistle Doom Chicago
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Exactly who produced the sound remains unclear. ESPN play-by-play man and former referee Mike Breen briefly suspected a fan was to blame: "Earlier in the game, I thought I heard a whistle from the stands."
With his team leading by a single point, Heat forward LeBron James had just missed two consecutive free throws, prompting a mad scramble for the rebound between Heat and Bulls players below Miami's basket.
Miami's Dwyane Wade attempted to save the ball while falling out of bounds, raising his arms in bewilderment when that whistle sounded, assuming the official positioned along the endline had ruled the ball out of bounds, possession to Chicago.
Instead, raising his arms as if to declare, "It wasn't me," was referee David Jones, the lead official. Meanwhile, slot (center) official Monty McCutchen did not react to the whistle's blast.
After a brief pause during which most players stopped playing as Miami's Chris Bosh secured the loose—yet dead—ball, trail official James Williams hustled in to stop play and convene a meeting of his officiating crew.
The final ruling? An inadvertent whistle—someone had accidentally blown their horn while the ball was alive and in play. The whistle had blown before Jones ruled Wade in- or out-of-bounds and before the loose ball was recovered by Bosh.
Per Rule 5-VII-c of the NBA Rules Book, an inadvertent whistle signifies two things.
First, an inadvertent whistle during a loose ball results in a center circle jump ball between any two opponents presently in the game.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, Rule 13 does not allow for the review of plays involving an inadvertent whistle. Because Jones had not declared Wade's status on the court prior to the inadvertent whistle, the play could not be reviewed, even though in- vs. out-of-bounds was a debatable issue.
The ensuing jump ball at center court between Miami's James and Chicago's Taj Gibson was also fraught with controversy.
Replays appear to indicate James illegally contacted the jump ball while it was still on its upward trajectory. Per Rule 6-VII-c, "neither jumper may tap the tossed ball before it reaches its highest point."
The penalty for this infraction is the awarding of the ball out-of-bounds to the opponent of the violator.
For Chicago, the sequence was a culmination of a series of unfortunate events at game's end that left them four points short of forcing overtime.
The Heat led 94-93 when Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was fouled by Miami's Udonis Haslem with 22 seconds to play.
Rose then did something unheard of (for Rose), missing two consecutive free throws.
What is primarily responsible for Chicago's loss to Miami on Sunday?
The two misses were Rose's only imperfections from the line on Sunday and Rose's first fourth quarter free throw misses of this lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season.
Rose had previously been 28-28 in fourth quarter attempts from the charity stripe.
Heat forward LeBron James secured the defensive rebound off Rose's second miss and with 21 seconds left in regulation, the Bulls were forced to foul.
Joakim Noah picked up his sixth foul, meaning Noah had fouled out and the Bulls would have to rely on Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson for the rest of the game.
Noah's disqualification would prove costly for Chicago, as Noah's absence explained Gibson's presence for that final jump ball.
Over the course of Sunday's game, there were four jump balls, all of which were won by the Heat.
The Bulls had several chances to pull ahead or climb back quicker, but suffered with a 27 percent three-point shooting percentage, 15 turnovers and a 71 percent mark from the free throw line.
On the plus side for Chicago, Rose scored 34 points in 45 minutes, the only player throughout the NBA to have scored over 30 points against the Miami Heat this season.
As Chicago now must pick up the pieces and regroup for their Monday night contest in Washington, one thing is clear.
Given the excitement generated by the final minutes of Sundays Bulls-Heat thriller, NBA fans are in for a real treat if and when Chicago meets Miami in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.
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