Noah, Thibs Angrily Question Referee’s Use of Replay

Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah were both miffed at the way the Bulls lost to the Nuggets in a game they badly needed to win

NBA Ref Ken Mauer
Getty Images

Tom Thibodeau was visibly upset during his postgame presser and Joakim Noah could be heard screaming and cursing in the shower. And none of the other Bulls felt much like talking after Monday night’s controversial 119-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets in overtime at the United Center on Monday night.

With 46 seconds remaining in overtime, game officials failed to call goaltending on a Kosta Koufos putback on a Ty Lawson missed layup attempt with the ball clearly still on the rim. Two plays later the referees called offensive basket interference on a Joakim Noah tip-in that would’ve given the Bulls a 120-119 lead, except they didn’t make the call on the floor.

After the basket, a timeout was called and the officials went back and reviewed the Noah play and ultimately waved it off which made both Thibodeau and Noah livid. Neither questioned the call on Noah’s tip-in, but the rules on reviewing plays.

“Very disappointing. You play this game so hard and maybe I just don’t understand the rules or something. I just don’t understand how you can review my tip in, but two plays before that, you can’t review the other one,” Joakim Noah asked after the game. “There’s got to be consistency in when you can review. It’s just frustrating how things like that can happen. I know that the refs are doing the best that they can in those situations, but it cost us the game. It’s disappointing.”

“Don’t understand it one bit,” Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s a tough play. From my angle, it looked like it was a good play. It looked like the ball was short. Koufos’ [shot], I know was sitting on the rim. I guess we have to call the league and get an interpretation. Maybe I don’t understand the rule correctly.

“I asked [the officials] why didn’t they review [the Koufos play]? Clearly it was on the rim. They told me because they didn’t make the [goaltend] call, so they couldn’t review it.”

According to the rules Joakim Noah’s basket came during the ball's descent while it still had a chance of touching the rim. But the controversy lies in the fact that the Bulls were awarded the basket with no goaltending call being made on the floor. However, Denver argued for a review and got one during a timeout and the basket was later disallowed.

After the game, an NBA referee was asked this question by a pool reporter surrounding the decision to wave off the Noah tip-in:

What is the difference in ruling between an alley-oop pass that is delivered to the rim and dunked, compared to the ball that Noah deflected into the basket?

Mauer's answer was as follows:

"There is no difference. If we deem the ball in its descent has a chance to score, and therefore it's in the cylinder, it's either offensive basket interference or its goaltending. That's it."

Said Luol Deng on the loss, “If you look back at it, you can see their bench screaming at the refs because they were upset at the call. Then there was a timeout and there was a review. When Koufos got the tip in, I thought we called timeout. It was overtime and it wasn’t reviewed either. I don’t know if they’re right or if they’re wrong. We just need to know what the rules really are.”

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