Bulls’ Billy Donovan expresses frustration as NBA confirms officiating errors

The last thing the Chicago Bulls need is another last-second thriller Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets.

Those haven’t been going their way lately.

For the third time this season, the NBA on Tuesday acknowledged an incorrect call against the Bulls in a last-second moment. In all three, the correct call likely would have meant victories for Chicago.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan voiced his frustration with the recurring problem following his team’s 145-134 overtime loss at Cleveland on Monday. The Cavs forced overtime on a miraculous shot by Donovan Mitchell the NBA said should not have counted. The league’s Last Two-Minute Report found Mitchell committed a lane violation after intentionally missing the second of two foul shots, aiding his ability to rebound his miss and convert the game-tying shot with three seconds remaining.

Officials also missed a traveling violation on a critical score by Cavs center Jarrett Allen, the report said. Allen’s basket pulled Cleveland within one with 8.9 seconds remaining in regulation, setting up Mitchell’s free-throw sequence.

The oversights came two nights after the NBA acknowledged Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan was fouled by Cavs guard Caris LeVert on his potential game-winning jumper just before time expired in Saturday’s one-point home loss to Cleveland.

“Listen, it’s been two games in a row. DeMar obviously got fouled the other night against them,” Donovan told reporters in Cleveland following Monday’s game. “And I think the Two-Minute Report will come out and say he crossed the line.

“And I could be wrong, and if I’m wrong I’ll apologize. But at least what I saw on film, it made it hard for Patrick (Williams) to block him out because he was certainly across the free-throw line before the ball ever hit the rim. And if that’s the case it’s a violation. And my question, it would be, ‘Who’s looking at that?’ And, again, if I’m wrong then I’ll apologize and say I was wrong. But if that’s what the rule is then clearly we’re going to see that in the Two-Minute Report.”

NBA officials also erred in the Bulls’ second game of the season, a two-point road loss at Washington. The Last Two-Minute Report concluded Wizards forward Anthony Gill fouled DeRozan on a 28-foot, game-winning attempt.

Give the Bulls wins in those three games and their 16-21 record would be a more respectable 19-18. As it stands, Chicago hasn’t been .500 since Nov. 2, when the Bulls were 5-4. Instead of being 1.5 games out of the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed, the Bulls sit 4.5 games back, currently out of Play-in Tournament contention at 11th.

The league’s acknowledgments serve no solace.

“It doesn’t do anything,” Donovan said after the game. “It’s, like, ‘We’re sorry.’ ”

Donovan also recognized his team’s fundamental failure, which left open the door for Mitchell’s game-saving play and the officials’ game-changing gaffe.

“We have to control what we can control,” Donovan told reporters in Cleveland after the game. “We’ve got to block out better. Regardless of the situation. We know they’re going to miss. We’ve got to go in there and get it done.”

Although he conceded that his team fouled too much in Monday’s loss, Donovan cited the free-throw discrepancy as a “huge” factor in the result. Cleveland outshot Chicago 45-34 in free-throw attempts. Mitchell, who scored an NBA season-high 71 points, made 20 of 25 foul shots.

“I want to go back and look at the movie because I just think overall the game, just watching it live to be honest with you, hard to watch at times,” Donovan said after the game. “It really was. Some of the consistency on the fouls. I’m fine. I very, very rarely argue a call for another team. But when our guys are getting fouled, I’m going to try to fight for them. But I think the free throw was a huge, huge factor in the game.”

Chicago is just 4-9 in games decided by five points or fewer and fell to 1-4 in overtime contests.

“We’ve got to overcome things. I’m just a big believer of that,” Donovan said. “I think a lot of times you can look around and look at what everybody else is doing wrong instead of looking at yourself and what we can do better ourselves and what we have control over.

“There’s clearly a lot that we can do so I’m not going to dwell on that too much. I’m going to dwell on what did we have control over? And certainly, one thing we had control over was we could have gotten that basketball at the end of regulation. And two, I think we could have not fouled as much.”

(Photo of Donovan Mitchell: Ken Blaze/USA Today)


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