WASHINGTON—Déjà vu, all over again.
The manner in which the Bulls fell to the Wizards wasn’t exactly the same as how they fell to the Nuggets in overtime at home back on March 18, but Tuesday night’s 90-86 loss to the Wizards at the Verizon Center was eerily similar.
A tip-in by Nazr Mohammed with 3:19 remaining that would given the Bulls a one-point was ruled offensive basket interference, setting the stage for Washington’s eighth consecutive home victory.
“One thing I’ve learned over these years is why ask? Because as a player, you see it one way and the refs, they see it another way, and once the play is called, it’s always easy to look at the review and see what truly what happened. I trust those guys. They tried to make the right call,” Mohammed said. “I know Joey [Crawford, a longtime NBA official]—he didn’t make the call—but he’s an honorable guy. He always tries to make the right call, so I can’t really say much about it. I thought it was a clean tip, but it is what it is.
“It’s definitely a hard play to ref in the heat of the moment. Now, I do understand that sometimes they have an angle that’s not the best angle to see exactly where the ball is on the rim,” he continued. “Kirk shot it and I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I just wedged myself in there and I’m under the rim, and I just saw the ball so perfectly, rolling off the rim. It was one of those situations, it looked like it was moving in slow motion for me, so I just went up and tipped it back in, so I thought it was a good tip., but the refs saw it otherwise.”
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Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: “Clearly the ball was off the rim. Or out of the rim.”
However, the negative effect on the Bulls wasn’t just limited to the goaltending call.
Kirk Hinrich was bumped on a drive before putting up the shot that led to the play. He argued the call and was given a technical foul, then a subsequent technical seconds later, both by referee Sean Corbin, and was ejected.
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“Quite frankly, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand the call. I didn’t understand the technicals. I don’t even think he was talking about the goaltend. He was talking about the play before,” said Thibodeau, who noted that the game officials “weren’t talking,” and didn’t give him an explanation.
Hinrich added: I was complaining about a non-foul call. I got one and the second one was pretty quick after it.
“I didn’t [think the ejections were warranted], but in that situation, late game, you’ve just got to try to avoid that happening. I’ve got to bite my tongue and let it go.”
Mohammed chimed in: “I didn’t hear what he said, but my whole thing with that is I don’t judge the refs. But you don’t want to see a guy get kicked out of the game. I don’t know what was said, but Kirk, he’s a great teammate and he’s the type of guy, if he says something, but I’m backing Kirk. It needed to be said because he doesn’t say much.”
Regardless of Hinrich’s ejection and Mohammed’s basket interference, the Bulls didn’t do themselves any favors toward the end of the contest.
“We’ve got to find a way at the end. Things went against us,” Thibodeau said. “Lost Kirk. Missing free throws. Got to do better.”
Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler both missed late-game free throws that allowed the Wizards, who didn’t exactly dominate down the stretch, to pull out the win.
“I’m always concerned. I’m concerned about everything. But that’s not what lost the game for us. There were a lot of plays prior to that we could have done a lot better,” Thibodeau explained. “If we’re missing shots, we still should be in position to win, if we do the other things. Unfortunately, sometimes our energy drops when we miss and that can’t happen.”
Mohammed concurred: ““It’s on us. Give them credit—they’ve been playing well at home—but we didn’t do the things we need to, to win the game tonight, and it’s disappointing, but we’ve got to just keep plugging away. There’s nine games left. We’ve got to crank it up, start playing some better basketball. We’ve got to search to find some sort of consistency.”
Butler, who missed two critical free throws in the waning moments of Saturday’s close loss to, took responsibility for his misses.
“You keep getting the same test until you pass it,” he said. “That’s one aspect of it, but I feel like that’s not the only reason why we lost this game.
“I go through it with the same mindset every time: I’m going to make them…they didn’t fall. I can’t tell you why. I guess that means more work, go up there with an even more confident mindset,” the second-year swingman, normally one of the team’s best foul shooters, continued. “It’s frustrating…you look over at Nate, he’s cussing himself out.
“It’s tough, knowing that the game’s kind of on your shoulders. You miss two, it’s devastating to us, personally, as a team and all of our fans.”