There's nothing like ending a good game of basketball with a bogus foul call. Last night's 104-103 Celtics loss to the Bulls in Chicago was particularly painful, as although we saw the Celtics rally back late and looked to be heading into the All-Star with a solid win on the road and riding a 5-game winning streak with Marcus Smart shutting down Jimmy Butler on back-to-back plays to close out the game - then this happened:
When you've got Brad Stevens swearing on the sideline you know it's bad. Our old pal Doc Rivers would certainly have had to be dragged out the way he was earlier this season at a Clips game. I was watching the game my local watering-hole and I left there disgusted thinking Smart didn't even touch Butler, obviously he did graze his elbow looking at the replay. What a soft sorry-ass end to what should have been a great defensive finish for the Celtics - a team that's struggled to relocate it's defensive identity from last season but has been making strides of late.
By far though, the worst part of it is that the referee stood their and watched the entire shot and waited to make the call after it clanked off the front rim and the game was actually over. Here's a freeze frame with the shot about to brick and the red lights are already on with the official on the baseline who made the call watching the ball before deciding to blow the whistle:
Way to bail out a player who just hero-balled the finish by winding the clock down and taking a spinning jumper from 17 feet with the game on the line. You'd think the way Chicago was getting offensive boards they'd try to leave themselves a few seconds for a put-back in the case of a miss, but no the spinning fadeaway as time expired was the choice. Great job by the ref to bail him out for that abysmal shot selection.
The Celtics, the broadcasters, people with two eyes watching at home were in disbelief, and after Butler sunk the two free-throws the C's got a chance to draw up a last attempt to steal back the game with .9 seconds put back on the clock. Al Horford got a good look but he air mailed it - the ball does lie sometimes.
Obviously the reaction from the Celtics postgame was one of frustration, as they felt they were cheated of a solid win on the road. Smart and Isaiah Thomas were the last to leave the floor and stared down the officials and Bulls players doing their postgame interviews in disbelief as the teams filed into the locker rooms:
Isaiah Thomas after the game: "F****** horrible bro" pic.twitter.com/bx3Bcj01Tf— Brian Robb (@CelticsHub) February 17, 2017
Smart and Jae Crowder shared their accounts of the incident in the locker room, both claiming Butler cried foul to the officials after the ball went up:
Smart said he heard Jimmy Butler turn to ref and say "no foul?" Then saw official's hand go up.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) February 17, 2017
Jae Crowder: "I heard Jimmy yell, and then I heard the buzzer go off, and then I heard the whistle."— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) February 17, 2017
Butler certainly played up the drama with a yelp like he got hit by a sniper on the final shot and of course thinks the call was justified:
Butler: "A foul's a foul. He hit my elbow."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) February 17, 2017
Can't complain too much here as our guy defending, Smart, is well known for his embellishment at times; however, that doesn't change the fact that his excellent defense on the final two possessions goes for naught now:
Isaiah: "we won this game. We had it won. A great defensive play by Marcus Smart and the ref made a horrible call."— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) February 17, 2017
Marcus Smart: "I’m one of the best defenders in this league. I played hell of a great defense right there. I know I did."— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) February 17, 2017
As good as Smart's D was on that final play, forcing that ridiculous spinning shot from Jimmy B, his lockdown strip on the previous Bulls possession on Butler was incredible - I wish I could find a video of it:
Marcus Smart, after a relatively quiet game, just rips the ball and maybe the game away from the Bulls. Monster.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) February 17, 2017
Alas it's only one game, and there's more to this loss than the final play. the Celtics were out rebounded by 20 and gave up 15 offensive boards to a middling Eastern Conference team. Not a great look and if anything it was a showcase that Danny Ainge needs to get them some help in the paint before the trade deadline next week if they're going to have any success in the playoffs this year.
The C's head into the All-Star break still as the number two seed in the East, and will look to recoup some much needed rest. The next game Isaiah and the Celtics coaching staff are a part of will be Sunday night in New Orleans, with Jimmy Butler on their team. I'm sure they'll rib him for that plush call last night. Even though it's a tough loss to swallow Isaiah left the arena last night telling his teammates not to dwell on it, and that their effort was good enough for a win:
While leaving the locker room, Isaiah Thomas congratulated the Celtics on winning the game.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 17, 2017
I'm very much looking forward to the NBA coming out today and saying it was a bad call, it wouldn't be the first time the zebras boned Smart and the Celtics the past month. Maybe I'm not actually looking forward to it, I might break something.
Photo Credit - Celtics.com
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401
Mark Allison 2/17/2017 10:03:00 AM Tweet Edit