NBA: Celtics still smarting over loss to Bulls

Boston rue controversial late call as Bulls get narrow win

CHICAGO • The Chicago Bulls hit all 22 of their free throws, including a pair by Jimmy Butler with 0.9 seconds left, to edge the Boston Celtics 104-103 in the National Basketball Association (NBA) at the United Centre on Thursday.

Trailing 103-102, Butler drew a foul on Marcus Smart off a jump shot on Chicago's final possession.

The Bulls' leading scorer stepped to the free-throw line and drilled both shots, making him nine-for-nine for the game and giving him 29 points.

Boston (37-20) got one last chance, but Al Horford missed a fadeaway jumper as time expired.

Butler added seven assists for Chicago (28-29), while Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 29 points.

However, the Celtics were upset that their win was stolen from them, pointing to referee Zach Zarba's "bad call".

Celtics centre Kelly Olynyk makes a pass under pressure from Bulls forward Bobby Portis at the United Centre. Olynyk had 17 points off the bench while Portis scored 19 of the 34 points contributed by the Bulls' reserves.
Celtics centre Kelly Olynyk makes a pass under pressure from Bulls forward Bobby Portis at the United Centre. Olynyk had 17 points off the bench while Portis scored 19 of the 34 points contributed by the Bulls' reserves. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DEFINING MOMENT

We won this game. We had it won. A great defensive stop by Marcus Smart and the referee called a horrible call.

ISAIAH THOMAS , Celtics guard, criticising referee Zach Zarba for calling a touch foul on Marcus Smart.

"We won this game," Thomas told ESPN. "We had it won. A great defensive stop by Marcus Smart and the referee called a horrible call. That was bad."

Smart was equally exasperated with the decision.

"When Jimmy shot the ball I heard him scream, 'No foul?' " he said. "And as soon as he said that, the whistle blew, and I looked and I saw him (the referee) raise his hand for the foul.

"I'm one of the best defenders in this league. I played great defence right there - I know I did. I moved my feet, I did everything right, my head was up."

Butler, on the contrary, was sure that Smart hit his elbow as he took his shot.

"A foul's a foul," he said. "He hit my elbow. I don't care what nobody says. I think I'm making it if he don't alter it like that."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens claimed that he did not hear the referee's whistle and only realised it had been blown after seeing all the "commotion" on the floor.

"It's part of it," he said after his side's four-game winning streak ended. "Move forward. I thought we played a pretty good game and I was proud of the way we competed.

"I'm not going to let (the end) derail that. I feel good about our team and I feel good about the direction we're headed."

The controversial foul was not the only drama between Butler and Smart in the final minute as Smart also stole the ball from Butler with 30.9 seconds left.

Smart appeared to have got the better of Butler again when time ran out, but Butler got the final say.

"It's hard to see from where I was," Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. "But it was Jimmy stepping up and making two big ones for us."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Celtics still smarting over defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe