Monday night the Chicago Bulls found themselves down the entire game, until the fourth where they stormed back to send it into overtime against the Denver Nuggets. Riding the hot hand of Nate Robinson and relentless play of Joakim Noah, it appeared they were set to stun Wilson Chandler and the Nuggets with five seconds to go in overtime.
Off the inbound pass, Marco Belinelli raced awkwardly toward the baseline shooting an off balanced fade-away that looked as though it would be no good at first. Noah came flying into the scene and tapped the ball in the hoop to put the Bulls up one with 1.7 seconds remaining. The United Center was rocking while the Bulls and their bench were jumping around screaming with the fans. There was one problem, however, the referees huddled together and came to a different conclusion. They had called offensive basket interference on Noah.
Looking at the replay closely, Noah indeed touches the ball before it enters the cylinder. Judging by the analysts calling the game, the fans’ reaction, and several other analysts and journalists responding via Twitter, this was absolutely not the right call. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has been known to get quite colorful on the sideline at times, but I’m not quite sure what to call his reaction tonight. He was angrier than I’ve seen him all year long.
It was a shame that the very best Bulls game of the year had to end this way. Nate Robinson gave his best effort of the year with a 34 point, seven assist explosion including several clutch shots in the fourth quarter and overtime. Joakim Noah meanwhile, continued his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year with a 14 point, 12 rebound, seven block, and six assist stat line. Noah has also been arguably the most complete center in the NBA this year, and deserves to be in the conversation for an All NBA First Team selection.
It’s just another heartbreaking event for the Bulls this season, as they have been used to on many previous occasions. The up and down season continues for Chicago as they continue to await the return of their beloved point guard, Derrick Rose. It’s times like these where fans start to wonder “what if” Rose had played tonight…just what would have happened?