Officially Screwed Parts I and II: Putting the Refs On Trial

Thibs is Confused

Officiating had me like ^

Order in on the court! The Eastern Conference Semi-Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers has been nothing short of entertaining albeit incredibly frustrating as well. The Bulls never trailed in Game 1 while the Cavs never trailed in Game 2, and in Games 3 and 4 each team's superstar hit a buzzer beater to seal the win for their respective squads. The common trend through all of these games, however, has been that the officiating has been bad, and its been slanted in favor of the Cavs. Surely, this is a ridiculous claim! Cavalier fans will argue that poor officiating goes both ways or even that the calls have actually been in the Bulls favor (lol), and this is an argument I have had many times with several residents of Cleveland over the course of the season and the playoffs. Unfortunately, without substantial evidence to support my claims, my argument falls on deaf ears. So what can I do?

Because I'm currently in college student purgatory for the week as I await the start of my internship, I have a lot of free time on my hands. Therefore, I decided that in order to support my claims (and kill time before the playoff games are on) I would need to put the refs on trial and rewatch all of the Bulls/Cavs series thus far. By doing this and evaluating all of the calls/no calls, I would be able to point to each individual officiating mess up (of both teams) and effectively determine who had the advantage and by how much.

I was already skeptical of the officiating with respect to both teams prior to this series. Here's an excerpt from a preview for the Bulls/Cavs series I was writing but eventually scrapped:

The refs have already started to rear their ugly heads before the series has even started. During the regular season, the Bulls averaged 25.2 trips to the line per game (4th in the league) while Cleveland managed to make it there 23.6 times per game (tied for 11th overall with the Lakers). Yet, through round one of the playoffs, the Bulls are averaging just 23 trips to the line per game (10th out of playoff teams) while Cleveland has boosted their attempts all the way up to 31.5 per game, which ranks them second only behind Houston and figures to be a difference of nearly 8 more attempts per game for the Cavs.

But fouls don't tell the entire story, no calls also make a huge (sometimes even bigger) difference on the outcome of the game, particularly when the game is close. So here are the rules I will be using when conducting this evaluation:

1. All called fouls and non-called fouls will be reviewed but only the dubious or clearly incorrect calls (for either side) will be included. Calls clearly disputed by players after they have been made will be included. Reach-in fouls will not be included unless they have a replay to dispute them.

2. If there is a non-call in favor of the offense shortly before a non-scoring possession change or in favor of the defense shortly before a basket is scored anyway, I will consider it moot and omit it. An example of this is the missed Rose travel towards the end of Game 1 that subsequently nearly ended in a shot clock violation and gave the Cavs the ball back anyway after a Rose heave. Had Rose made the 3, the travel would have been included

3. Any call I dispute will have a vine accompanied with it regardless of affected team. I'm paying special attention to Rose/Kyrie/LeBron but will look at everything. Confirmed calls will have their respective video linked so you can confirm for yourself (if there is one available).

4. The NBA Official report will not be used when evaluating calls in the last two minutes. I did this because the report has proven it can be incorrect (see end of Game 3) or even not complete the objective it sets out to do. ("no decision" on the Blatt TO at the end of Game 4? Seriously?)

5. Each incorrect call nets the team the call favors a point on the refball scoreboard. Calls inside of two minutes left are worth two points because they carry more weight than calls at other points in the game. The score will carry over to the next game. Technicals regardless of acquisition method (3 seconds, trash talk, UFC spinning backfist, etc.) will not be included. That being said, the tech called on JR Smith in Game 4 was absolutely incorrect, but you can't necessarily blame the refs for policing a guy that has received multiple playoff suspensions in the past. JR has unfortunately lost the benefit of the doubt at this point in his career.

6. If you are a Cavs fan that is commenting on Blog a Bull for some stupid reason or another, feel free to speak up on which calls you think I analyzed incorrectly, just don't expect me to respond (or value your opinion). If you don't use a subject line my response will likely just be a shot at Cleveland, and trust me, this was just the tip of the iceberg. I live in Ohio 75% of the year so I've got plenty of ammo left in the mag. Feel free to conduct your own evaluation over at FTS, I think comparing the results over there to the ones here would if nothing else illustrate the chasm that exists with respect to what both fan bases are seeing. It's not like you have anything better to do in Cleveland anyway!

Without further ado, lets get it going.

Game 1


6:15: No foul here, but it's hard for me to believe Kyrie was as hurt as he claimed he was in the beginning of the series when he was still pulling off stuff like this. To his credit, damn. Behind the back into the spin is my go-to move... in 2K15.

5:05: Noah fouls Mozgov, doesn't agree with call
Tough one because they don't give us a replay or other angle to see what happened. However, Mozgov in this series typically hasn't missed down low dunks unless he's hacked, so I'm willing to give him benefit of the doubt here. Refs got this one right.

3:50: Shumpert misses reverse layup, doesn't agree with call
Dunleavy stays with him the whole way (despite nearly getting crossed) and manages to contest the layup with both arms straight in the air. Good no call by refs.

3:46: Rose transition layup attempt "blocked", no call from refs
And it begins. Real-time tells us nothing, but a slow-motion replay clearly shows Kyrie hacking Rose and not getting a single piece of the ball. Rose should have had two free throws, but as we know, he'd have to wait until he got back to Chicago to have a single attempt from the line. Thus we have our first officiating blunder of the series.

2:44: Blocking foul called on Kirk Hinrich in favor of Tristan Thompson
Thompson just gets the ball and slams into Kirk here. Kirk doesn't even reach in or anything. What's more is this isn't even actually a shooting foul. The ref blows the whistle before Thompson even begins anything close to a shooting motion. Kirk doesn't argue the call but it's hard to see this again and call it a shooting foul, if anything it should have been on the floor. Point Cavs.

0:15: Gasol contests Kyrie layup attempt, no call by refs
Not having a replay of this makes it tough to judge. After watching this about fifteen times over, I came to the conclusion that Gasol's arms were straight up and Kyrie essentially launched himself into Gasol searching for a call to no avail. A view from the other sideline may have yielded a different conclusion, but this is what we're working with. Correct call by the officials, Kyrie gets away with enough of these anyway.

0:00: Cavs up 2-0


10:50: Blocking foul called on Tristan Thompson, count Kirk Hinrich basket
This was a close one, and when I first saw it I actually thought that Thompson had gotten there in time, but the replay clearly shows Thompson dragging his right foot into position while Hinrich is already in the air. Correct call.

7:47: Foul called on Derrick Rose, count Kyrie Irving PUJA1
This isn't even a debate. If Rose doesn't give Kyrie room to land, then there's a perfectly good reason to call this foul. But not only does Kyrie land cleanly on both feet, Rose doesn't even try to defend any part of the shot and still gets called for the foul. This is egregiously bad. Point Cavs.

7:20: Foul called on Derrick Rose, Bulls don't like call
This is another tough one to figure out, but the call is made so laughably late that I'm inclined to side with Rose. Kyrie doesn't even try to get the ball near the rim, he just flings the ball at the backboard hoping for a call. I really wish I had another angle to look at because this one is super close, but Rose isn't getting calls like this and he doesn't even appear to strongly contest the shot attempt, so the Cavs are getting another point here.

7:19: Out of bounds, Bulls ball
Fans went ballistic when the refs awarded possession to the Bulls, but if you watch what happens a few times you can see James Jones clearly knock it out of Rose's hand. Another angle may have revealed something different, but again, this is what we're working with. Right call.

3:30: Foul called on Nikola Mirotic, Kyrie gets two shots
The issue here isn't whether or not there was a foul (Mirotic clearly extends his arms into Kyrie) but the type of foul called. When Mirotic fouls him, Kyrie is barely a step into his gather move, the ball is still below his waist, and he hasn't even committed to shooting the ball yet. He actually gets fouled far outside of the lane but doesn't even really shoot the ball until he's just on the outside of the circle. Kyrie also takes three steps but this was likely a biproduct of him getting fouled by Niko. Still, the foul should have been on the floor, but because this is Kyrie we're dealing with he gets awarded freethrows. I'm giving the Cavs half a point here because calling a foul was correct but the type of foul called was not and they got two free points out of it.

2:30: Kyrie makes driving layup, no travel called
There is no way that Cavs fans are going to agree with this (and it's extremely unlikely this would get called on any home team) but the reality is that this is a travel pure and simple. Kyrie brings the ball up past his waist on his first step and then proceeds to take two more steps afterwards. I'll commend Kyrie for his D Rose-esque finish at the end of the play but that doesn't excuse the refs not whistling a travel call here. Point Cavs.

1:33: No wonder Benny has been railroading Moondog on Twitter, his trampoline dunks are terrible! Credit to the dude after him for actually doing something impressive. At least Moondog didn't throw a female fan into the trampoline for liking the Bulls or something.

1:21: LeBron blocks Derrick Rose's layup attempt, no goaltend called.
I'll let the video (and C-Webb) speak for themselves. Inexcusable. The rule needs to be changed to allow referees to quickly review goaltends, especially when you consider how many goaltends are bang-bang plays. I don't blame the refs for their live call but they still got it wrong and it cost the Bulls a basket. Point Cavs.

0:03: LeBron drives on Butler, missed jumpshot, no foul called
It's impossible to tell from the sideline view, as LeBron appears to be lowering his shoulder and clearly steam-rolls into Butler as he's accustomed to doing, but Jimmy isn't set when he gets hit hence the no call. However, Rachel Nichols graciously gave the audience at home a look at the play in the second half (though it was to see Butler smack his head against Gasol's leg on the way down, fortunately he wasn't hurt). I was initially going to chalk this up as a right call, but the other angle clearly shows LeBron push off of Butler while ramming him straight in the chest with his shoulder. They won't call it on LeBron, but that doesn't make it correct. Point Cavs.

0:00: Cavs up 7.5-0


8:29: Kyrie tries to get another PUJA1, no foul called, shot missed
I only bring this up because both Kyrie and Derrick do the exact same things from the PUJA1 call at 7:47 in Q2 but this time no foul is called. Refs gotta stay consistent.

8:26: Mozgov called for loose ball foul on Pau Gasol, doesn't agree with call
Though another angle would have helped, I have to side with Mozgov on this one. Pau claims he got hit in the left side of the face but neither of Mozgov's arms are in a position to do so as he goes for the rebound with his right and his left is down by Pau's back. The offical that made the call is also on the opposite side of where the play is happening, so I don't know how he could have seen Pau get hit in the face if even we at home couldn't. Point Bulls. The scoring drought is over!!!

4:11: Kyrie makes driving layup, no travel called
It's difficult to tell in real time and because Rose sort of obscures the view, but you can see in the vine that Kyrie takes three steps to get to the basket. I even stopped the game on all three of his steps so that you could clearly count them out. Point Cavs.

0:00: Cavs up 8.5-1

Q4 (Side Note: The cavalier girls are literally just called the Cavalier Girls? Is that the best they could come up with? What about the Cavaladies? The Erie Cheeries? The Cuyaho-Gals? Hot in Cleveland? Regardless, they still have nothing on the Luvabulls or their Chicago flag outfits. I'm forcing my future wife to wear one of those on my birthday at some point in the future).

9:29: Kyrie makes pull-up jumper, no foul called on Thompson
The most frequent complaint I've heard about the officiating from Cleveland's perspective is that the Bulls are hugging and fouling constantly when trying to get rebounds. I'm using this play as an example to illustrate that this element by itself goes both ways. Thompson executes a straight up judo throw on Taj here which incidentally ends up tripping Noah. I'm not going to chalk this up as a point for the Cavs because if I do then I have to start doing it for literally every instance where there's a live ball waiting to be rebounded and players are hugging each other on both sides (and by the time I get done doing so the series will be over even if it somehow goes to eight games). Let's just move on.

8:57: Noah called for foul, Kyrie converts layup, doesn't agree with call
You may think that when Noah first touches Kyrie is when the foul occurs, but the referee doesn't signal for a foul until the ball is already in the air, so this is either a comically late call or the ref saw a foul on Kyrie's way up. But the replay clearly shows that Noah didn't even touch Kyrie as he was laying the ball up, so this is another blown call by the officials. Chalk it up for Cleveland.

8:43: Rose gets called for a backcourt violation that Ken Mauer immediately rescinds.
No beef here, but even though he admitted he was wrong this was still a really terrible initial call. Worth a quick mention but not more than that.

7:41: LeBron makes layup, no foul called on Noah
We all hate how frequently Pau Taj LeBron complains to the officials but he has legitimate beef here. Noah hacks and doesn't get remotely close to the ball. I wish I had a closer angle to confirm it but you can see it well enough from the vine. Point Bulls.

4:04: Rose called for offensive foul, doesn't agree with call
This would have been a guaranteed top ten play if the refs didn't blow this call. Rose splits Thompson and Kyrie with lightning quickness and gets in the air before LeBron gets set. Actually, LeBron was already set in a wide stance ready to take the charge but decided to move his feet closer together while Rose was already in the air and got away with it anyway. You can tell the ref isn't looking at LeBron's feet but rather at Rose while he's in the air. That is piss poor officiating. Point Cavs.

3:53: Out of bounds, Cavs ball, whole Bulls team is pissed
There's no way to tell because it happens so fast and there's no other angle, but the fact that four Bulls all freak out when posession is awarded to the Cavs tells me the refs missed this. C-Webb also notes that the Bulls' boxout was so good he didn't think any of them touched the ball before it went out. Still, I don't have any concrete evidence to refute this call, so I'm gonna have to say it should stand.

0:54: LeBron misses driving layup, no foul called, doesn't agree with call
Sorry, LeBron, not this one. Pau keeps his hands off of LeBron and goes straight up with the left to contest the shot. Good no call by the officials.

0:00: Cavs win Game 1, 10.5-2

So there's Game 1 right there. Of the questionable calls throughout the game that were incorrectly handled by the officals, the Cavs got the nod over the Bulls on roughly eleven of them while the Bulls only got two. So how did things change in Game 2, if at all? Let's take a look.

Game 2


5:59: Noah called for foul, LeBron misses layup, doesn't agree with call
This call was so late that the ball actually ends up in Dunleavy's hand before the whistle blows. With no alternate angles and LeBron flying down the court like a Japanese bullet train, it's not an easy judgment to make. However, Dunleavy and Butler both put their hands up to indicate neither of them are attempting to touch LeBron, and Noah doesn't appear to actually do anything that alters LeBron's shot. The ref literally waits until LeBron screams at him to give the call, as if he was relying on LeBron's reaction to make a decision rather than evaluating the play itself. If the call had been made when the contact occurred I'd probably be much more inclined to let it stand, but this was so comically mistimed that I'm almost certain the ref was just going off of LeBron's reaction to determine the outcome of the play. Point Cavs.

4:58: Dunleavy called for foul, Shumpert misses jumper, doesn't agree with call
It's impossible to tell from the sideline view and there aren't any other angles. I'm pretty sure Shumpert sold that foul hard given that Dunleavy sort of just glides past him in the air (though still trying to contest the shot), but without another angle there's just no way to confirm it wasn't a foul. Call stands.

2:11: No foul, just wanted to note that this is when that pants-on-head dumb Cavs "All In" promo that had the guy throwing the female Bulls fan got played on the jumbotron. No cheers, just uncomfortable silence. It would appear Dan Gilbert's remarkable stupidity is now spreading through other departments of the organization like a disease.

0:18: Aaron Brooks called for foul, Kyrie layup blocked by Gasol, doesn't agree with call
Of course as fate would have it the 7'0'' Gasol not only blocks Kyrie's layup attempt but also blocks the only chance we have to see if Brooks actually fouled Kyrie or not. The Bulls don't agree with the call but there's no way for us to tell so the call stands.

0:01: Rose banks in jumper at buzzer, Dellavedova not called for shooting foul
Marv Albert initially called this an And 1, citing the contact that Dellavedova made with his hand right before Rose released the ball, but I'm glad he was wrong because that would have been an extremely weak call. It was clearly deliberate but had no effect on the shot at all and Rose still made the jumper anyway. I'm content with a no call here.

0:00: Cavs up 1-0 in Game 2, 11.5-2 overall


9:05: Rose called for foul, Kyrie misses layup, Bulls don't agree with call
You could make a weak case that Noah fouled Kyrie here despite the fact that Kyrie initiates all of the contact himself, but there is no case to be made for Rose whatsoever. I have absolutely no idea what compelled James Capers to call this on Rose but he doesn't even come close to touching Kyrie during any part of the shooting window. This didn't look that bad at first but a few rewinds reveal this was an absolutely abysmal call. Point Cavs.

3:42: Gasol called for offensive foul, doesn't agree with the call
What happens here is tricky. As Gasol tries to come through the lane, Dellavedova attempts to keep him out and their arms get tangled. It appears that Gasol tries to swim over Dellavedova but closer inspection reveals Dellavedova actually begins moving first and runs straight into Pau's other arm, which causes Pau to inadvertandly clothesline him because they were still tangled up. There is no way that the ref would have been able to recognize that in real-time, and I suppose it's a crafty albeit slightly dirty way of drawing an offensive foul, so I don't mind letting it stand. I don't approve of it but I can't really knock it either.

0:48: Dellavedova called for blocking foul, Gasol misses layup, Cavs don't agree with call
We don't get a replay here, and it's almost impossible to tell if Dellavedova's right foot is fully outside the circle, but he definitely gets position before Gasol hits him. The problem is that Dellavedova starts leaning back just slightly before he actually gets hit. Had he not done that, Gasol would have rammed into him and an offensive foul would have been the easy call. Regardless, the refs handled it correctly, which is good considering they seem to be screwing up almost every other bang-bang call in this series.

0:00: Cavs up 2-0 in Game 2, 12.5-2 overall


9:44: Rose misses layup attempt, no foul called, doesn't agree with call
Though I am inclined to believe that Rose got hit in the head by Kyrie (he holds the back of it as he talks to officals after the play) and didn't get the call (again), Mozgov obstructs the view of the play and there isn't another angle available. Rose more likely than not got fouled here with no call but it's too difficult to prove with what we're working with so I'll let the call stand.

9:17: Rose called for foul, Kyrie misses 3-Pt attempt, doesn't agree with call
Rose's hands aren't even touching Kyrie when he starts going up. Another angle would have been the nail in the coffin on this but you can clearly see from the still frame that Rose has his hands far from Kyrie before he fully leaves his feet and before the ref signals for a foul. Bad call, chalk up another one for Cleveland.

0:02: Miller called for foul, doesn't agree with the call
Not sure why he blew up when the ref called this, he clearly hugs Brooks around the waist. No biggie, moving right along.

0:00: Cavs up 3-0 in Game 2, 13.5-2 overall


11:01: Kyrie misses layup attempt, no foul called on Taj
We almost have a double screw up by the officials here in favor of the Bulls. When I first saw this I thought Kyrie flopped (he still does) and Taj just barely got in bounds in time, but the replay clearly shows Kyrie get hit in the head by Taj's arm. The same angle appears to implicate Taj of standing out of bounds, but another angle shows Taj just ever so slightly got within the lines, so Bulls only get one point here.

9:55: Rose called for foul, Kyrie misses 3-PT attempt, doesn't agree with call
This looks like a really weak 3-PT foul call (Rose is facing/beginning to run towards the basket when Kyrie lands) but when Rose plants his back right foot to begin his run he incidentally doesn't give Kyrie a landing zone which causes Kyrie to fall. Correct call.

4:20: I'm calling the game at this point (Thompson just dunked on Niko off a lob) because the Cavs just hit 100, are up 24 points, and the Bulls have all bench players in. Nothing that happens at this point with the refs affecting either side would be relevant to this analysis. So...

0:00: Cavs win Game 2 3-1, are up 13.5-3 overall.

PART II (Games 3 and 4)

Welcome back. Where we last left off, the Cavaliers had a 10.5 point advantage over Chicago in the officiating department. So how would things change in the next two games of the series? Let's take a look:



10:00: Pau Gasol misses putback attempt, no foul called
Pau wasn't faking it on this one. He's got inside position on Tristan Thompson but gets whacked in the back of the head while he's going up for the putback. You can hear Pau scream when he gets hit. The problem is whether or not Thompson actually touches the ball. It's so hard to tell because the play happens so quickly but this still-frame shows the ball is still in Pau's hands while Thompson is hitting him in the head past the point where he could potentially block the shot. It's close, but the Cavs get a point.

9:49: Foul called on Joakim Noah, LeBron James misses layup, doesn't agree with call
Another really late call. There's no way Joakim actually fouls him here but Pau definitely gets a little hip-check in that causes LeBron to fall over. The Cavs aren't getting a point here because a shooting foul was the correct call but the official still screwed up.

5:36: Jimmy Butler misses layup attempt, no foul called
Timofey Mozgov clearly grabs Jimmy's left arm as he tries to reverse the layup. This is a pretty bad miss by the refs considering one of them is standing right there and can see it plain as day. Point Cavs.

5:12: Noah misses layup attempt, no foul called, doesn't agree with no call
Noah misses this really badly but it's entirely of his own doing. Mozgov's arms aren't exactly straight up (they're up but crossed at his wrists) but he didn't do anything that would have affected the shot. Noah just picked an extremely poor time to shoot and has been missing layups in increasingly embarrassing fashion all series, as evidenced on the next Bulls possession when quite literally the exact same sequence happens. Good no call by refs.

3:07: Mike Dunleavy Jr. gets pushed over by LeBron, no foul called
I look forward to Cavs fans attempting to argue that Dunleavy slipped on a wet spot or something. There are two refs directly looking at this when it happens and neither of them call anything! LeBron gets caught up in trying to move around Taj Gibson and Mozgov while Dunleavy cuts along the baseline, and while trying to recover he clearly gets at least his right arm on Dunleavy right before he falls. It wasn't a violent push with malignant intentions but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have been called. Point Cavs.

2:08: Blocking foul called on JR Smith in transition, doesn't agree with call
This is a really really bad call by the referee. Butler actually tries to avoid JR Smith here by spinning out of the way after he recovers the ball, and he does it so perfectly that he doesn't even end up touching Smith. And Smith STILL gets called for a foul! Point Bulls.

0:27: Gasol misses shot attempt, no foul called on Thompson, doesn't agree with call
This is just Pau's usual complaining act when he bangs down low and misses a shot. Nothing to see here, moving right along.

0:00: Cavs up 3-1 in Game 3, up 16.5-4 overall


10:33: Noah has missed the rim on four layup attempts at this point.
I'm starting to get physically ill from having to watch him play this poorly all over again.

8:17: Kyrie Irving spins and steps out of bounds, no call
This one is super terrible because not only does Kyrie clearly step at least two feet out of bounds while still holding the ball, but the ref is literally standing right next to him when it happens. RIGHT NEXT TO HIM!!! He's just out of the frame but you can still see the right side of his body standing not a few meters away from Kyrie. Did I just go from using US Customary to Metric measurements in the same paragraph? Yes. Is this officiating crew bad? You tell me. Point Cavs.

7:55: Nikola Mirotic misses jumpshot, no foul called on James Jones
Now normally I would be willing to let this go given that the refs were for the most part letting both teams play, but there was an incident not twenty seconds prior to this with the same two players where the same sequence happens, only the end result is Jones shoots freethrows. Jones uses a pump fake to get Niko in the air and then barely grazes him to draw the foul. That's fine, but when the rolls are reversed the refs don't call it that way. Niko gets Jones up in the air with a pump fake, attempts to shoot the ball, gets hit, and the refs don't call anything. Refs gotta call it both ways. Point Cavs.

6:45: Foul called on Iman Shumpert, Mirotic misses layup, doesn't agree with call
In real time it looks like Niko could have flopped on this (and I do think he sold the call) but you can see Shumpert extend his arm and give Mirotic a slight push in the back after he gets beat in the post. Good call by the refs.

5:07: Out of bounds, Bulls ball, Cavs don't agree with call
Derrick Rose's pass gets tipped by LeBron, which then deflects off of Butler, which then bounces between JR Smith's legs. The ball could have potentially been touched by Tristan Thompson but I'm fairly certain the refs got this one wrong (and of course the call came way later than it should have). Point Bulls.

3:45: LeBron converts And 1 on Mirotic, no travel called
Again, will they ever call this on LeBron? Hell no. That doesn't make it correct. Point Cavs.

1:25: Foul called on Derrick Rose, LeBron converts And 1 layup, doesn't agree with call
It's pretty obvious Rose has his feet set just before LeBron barrels into him like an 18-wheeler running over a deer playing in traffic. This one hurts extra because it would have given LeBron three fouls right before the end of the first half. I know it's a bang-bang play but the refs have been screwing these calls up the entire series. Point Cavs.

0:51: Foul called on JR Smith, Dunleavy converts And 1, doesn't agree with call
Smith goes for the block to prevent an easy layup for Dunleavy, and while he doesn't hit him with his hands, the replay shows his body hits Dunleavy in the side as he's contesting the shot. Another replay shows Thompson may have incidentally collided with Smith in the air, causing him to get pushed into Dunleavy, which may explain why Smith thought he was innocent of any wrongdoing. Mike Breen believes Dunleavy got hit in the head as well but I couldn't confirm. Good call by the refs.

0:00: Cavs up 7-2 in Game 3, up 20.5-5 overall

Bonus Vine(s): Montell Jordan gave a live performance of This is How We Do It at halftime. "The party's here on the west side" is an oddly perfect line to use in a playoff game at the United Center, but the best part of the whole performance is when Jordan tries to get the crowd to sing along and is met with complete silence, then tries to play it off like nothing happened. Then it happens again three more times. Sorry Montell, this town's only big enough for one Jordan I guess.


11:27: Foul called on Rose, Kyrie misses floater attempt
Come on. Can the Bulls at least breathe on Kyrie when guarding him without getting a foul called? Not only are Rose's hands off of Kyrie while the ball is still in his hand but the refs make the call comically late yet again. I'm 99% positive that had Kyrie made the shot the officials would have swallowed their whistles and let the game progress. This is starting to get ridiculous. Point Cavs.

9:28: Mozgov travels, no travel called
You can hear Jeff Van Gundy laughing at this one. He does this right in front of the ref. There is quite literally no place else the ref could or should be looking at when this happens. Mozgov must have been working on his handles after practice with Kendrick Perkins Point Cavs.

8:43: Foul called on Noah, doesn't agree with call
The overhead replay shows LeBron barreling into Noah but he clearly hits LeBron in the right arm and even nearly goes as far as to wrap him up. Actually, this probably should have been a shooting foul as LeBron tries to get the ball up toward the rim but is unable to do so because of Noah's right arm. The foul call was correct but the type was not, so the Bulls get half a point.

1:57: No foul here, but an interesting play to look at because after Gibson dunks the ball he screams and pushes Matthew Dellavedova out of the way twice. We all know what would transpire just two games later, so I think we can effectively say this is the point where the Gibson/Dova beef started to take shape.

1:29: Foul called on LeBron, Butler gets Bonus freethrows, doesn't agree with call
This is really hard to tell. On one hand, you can see in this still shot that LeBron definitely has a hand extended into Butler's back. On the other, LeBron pleads to the official that he didn't touch him and Mike Breen believes that Butler embellished the push. Unfortunately, despite three different angles, none of them really give us a conclusive look, so I've got to let this one stand even though I'm fairly skeptical. Great defense by Butler prior to this, however.

0:35: Foul called on James Jones, Mirotic gets bonus freethrows, doesn't agree with call
Jones gets slightly tangled up with Mirotic when trying to prevent a switch, although the call comes pretty late and JR Smith is the one that actually pushes Niko out of the way. The spot where the foul occurred is actually obstructed by the players themselves, so I've got to let this one stand as well even though I'm again skeptical. Seems like a weak foul to call given how physical they have let the game play out up to this point.

0:00: Cavs up 9-2.5 in Game 3; up 22.5-5.5 overall


11:27: Kyrie misses driving layup, no foul called
Kyrie doesn't dispute the call but the replay clearly shows Taj grabbing his arm on his way to the rim prior to contesting the shot. Surprised he didn't dispute this considering he had legitimate beef but he was hustling to the ball after he missed (and subsequently fouled Dunleavy) so I guess he just didn't have time to do so. LeBron probably would have put out a hit on the ref for that if he was in Irving's shoes. Point Bulls.

10:08: Foul called on Butler, LeBron misses layup, doesn't agree with call
LeBron tries using his arm to create some slight separation from Butler (as he's accustomed to doing on contested drives to the rim) but that's not the issue here. The real issue is that Butler gets a hand on the ball and pins it to keep LeBron from getting a shot attempt up but gets called for a foul anyway. The replay shows this definitely should have been a jump ball. Point Cavs.

8:25: Mozgov called for foul, Bulls get possession, doesn't agree with call
When I first saw this live I thought this was a really bad call by the ref. When I saw it again I thought it was a really bad call by the ref. But if you watch closely you can see Mozgov push Butler in the back with his left arm while Butler is in the air going for the rebound, so this was actually a good call by the officials.

7:52: Foul called on JR Smith, Butler misses PUJA1, Cavs don't agree with call
He stole Kyrie's move! Smith clearly gets Butler around the waist here so I have no idea why anybody on the Cavs attempted to argue this call. Moving right along.

6:59: JR Smith falls over, calls timeout, Bulls think they got a jump ball
This is such a veteran move by Kirk Hinrich here. Smith is trying to call a timeout after he falls over but Kirk tries to get one hand on the ball and then use the other hand to prevent Smith from signaling the timeout. If I were a Cavs fan I would have been absolutely livid had a jump ball been called here so good on the refs for awarding the Cavs that timeout.

Bonus Vine: Kid is so focused on getting a t-shirt he doesn't realize he's on the jumbotron until it's too late. Mom tried to give him the assist at the end but just comes up short. The look of horror on his face is absolutely priceless.

3:15: Foul called on Iman Shumpert, Rose layup blocked, no goaltend called
You would think after another crew missed the same call in Game 1 that these refs would come better prepared to evaluate a similar situation in Game 3. Nope. The overhead replay clearly shows the ball bounce off of the glass before Thompson swats it. If this replay rule as it applies to goaltends isn't changed after this series then the NBA has committed an injustice. Point Cavs.

1:33: Rose misses layup attempt, no foul called on LeBron, doesn't agree with call
I wish we had a closer replay to set this in stone, but if you watch carefully LeBron smacks Rose somewhere on his left arm, probably closer to his wrist. Had James gotten any part of the ball, Rose wouldn't have been able to put it off of the glass like he did. Cavs get the first weighted points addition of the series.

0:51: Butler misses 3-PT attempt, no foul called on LeBron
The sideline view doesn't tell us much but on the slow motion close-up you can clearly see LeBron hits Jimmy in the head while he's shooting the ball. Commentators agree that there should have been a foul call here. Then again, the king can do no wrong, right? Not here. Cavs get two points.

0:41: Foul called on Butler, LeBron gets bonus freethrows, doesn't agree with call
Butler gets a paw on the ball but in the process he wraps up LeBron's left arm with his arms. It's really tough to judge initially but the third replay confirms precisely this. Good call. During the freethrows, Mark Jackson and JVG discuss how sequences like these (a no call on one end and a call on the other) can impact the end of games, the outcome of a series, and professional basketball in general. Tell me again, Cavs fans, how refs have nothing to do with this series?

0:34: Butler makes layup, no travel called
It was pretty funny when this happened because I was in the middle of debating one of my Cav fan friends about how slanted the officiating had been thus far, and then Butler does this. In real time it doesn't look like he did anything outrageous but he clearly picks up his pivot foot after he'd already taken his one and a half steps. Two points for the Bulls.

0:03: Out of bounds, Bulls ball, no foul call on LeBron
There's not much explaining I need to do here. The video, Mark Jackson, and JVG are all the evidence I need. I honestly thought that LeBron was trying to intentionally foul Rose for some reason when I saw this live. Yet, the league determined in the transparency report that LeBron "cleanly" stripped the ball. That is hilariously inaccurate (and one of the reason's I'm not factoring it into this analysis). The amount of stuff that LeBron can get away with in critical moments of the game is absolutely absurd. Cavs get two more points.

Bonus Vine Video: You already know what it is. One more time for old time's sake. And check out this Thibs mean mug as well. He wants this series.

0:00: Cavs win Game 3 17-5.5, up 30.5-8.5 overall

Game 4


9:23: Mozgov fouls Rose, Rose coverts And 1, doesn't agree with call
Come on Timofey, don't play dumb. He clearly checks Rose with the side of the body as he fails to contest the shot. I'm shocked he was shocked by the call. Good decision by the refs.

2:15: Butler hits jumpshot, no foul called on Thompson, doesn't agree with call
Jimmy gets Thompson up in the air with a pump fake, but he also deliberately leans in to get hit by him on the way down before quickly leaning back to give himself enough space to make the shot. Butler clearly instigated all of the contact here so a no call from the official is understandable. That being said, there's no guarantee they'd give Kyrie or LeBron the same treatment if they were in Jimmy's shoes on this play.

0:00: Tied up 0-0, Cavs still up 30.5-8.5 overall

It took all the way until the start of Game 4 for an officiating crew to go a whole quarter without a single screw up. Let's see if they can keep up this momentum.


10:02: Mirotic steps out of bounds, not called
I want the Cleveland fans to remember this one when they accuse me of being biased. I could have easily let this slide and you can't even tell that this happens live because JR Smith's head obstructs the view. The replay, however, shows Mirotic stepped out ever so slightly as he attempted to go for a reverse layup. Refs missed this and the Bulls eventually scored on this possession, so the Bulls get a point here.

Bonus Vine: This mom is so turnt for Mother's Day she doesn't even realize she's on the jumbotron... and I'm pretty sure she doesn't care.

8:03: Foul called on Noah, Mozgov misses jumpshot, doesn't agree with call
I was absolutely livid when I saw this happen live, I thought there was no way Noah could have fouled Mozgov on that. Then I was absolutely livid when I realized Noah actually did foul him, and fouling in that situation has to be one of the stupidest decisions you can make. How many jumpers has Mozgov made in this series? I'd be surprised if he could count the number he's made in English. An incredibly stupid play by a player that knows better. The refs probably could have let it slide but I will never knock them for doing their jobs (after all, one of the main points of this review is to ensure they are doing just that). Officials made the right call.

7:34: Butler tips in rebound, offensive interference called, doesn't agree with call
Okay, third time's a charm, right? Not in this series. I'll admit this is closer than the previous two missed goaltending calls but the ball is clearly outside of the cylinder and off of the rim when Butler puts this back in. Adam Silver, for the love of the game, please let refs quickly review ambiguous goaltends going forward. Point Cavs.

2:04: Foul called on Mirotic, Kyrie misses layup, doesn't agree with call
This is a soft call, and it's also a late one. You can't hear the whistle in the vine but the ref doesn't blow it until the ball is already off the rim, furthering the trend in this series of refs waiting on what the ball does (or how the player reacts afterwards) to determine whether or not to make a foul call. Mirotic doesn't go straight up but Kyrie's already gotten around him at this point and Niko doesn't swing his arm to try and block the shot either. Another angle would have been nice to confirm my decision but I'm fairly confident the refs got this one wrong. Point Cavs.

0:00: Cavs up 2-1 in Game 4, up 32.5-9.5 overall

Something scary to consider: that seven minute scoring drought the Bulls went through in the second quarter had nothing to do with the officials outside of the offensive interference call. I would honestly say that that was probably the best half the refs have officiated this series, players certainly have been contesting the calls considerably less in Game 4 than in others. Bulls just stunk it up for an extended stretch. Regardless of the refereeing quality, droughts like that simply can't happen if you want to win a playoff series.


7:48: Foul called on Butler, Shumpert misses layup, doesn't agree with call
Tough to tell from the sideline view, but thankfully the broadcast gifts the home audience an overhead replay (which I've determined is without a doubt the best angle for generally reviewing the accuracy of a call) and you can see Butler pokes the ball clean on the second and third replays without hitting his arms. Shumpert initiated the body contact here. This was not a good call by the officials. JVG agrees. Point Cavs.

4:53: Foul called on Thompson, Rose misses PUJA1, doesn't agree with call
The foul is called considerably late here, and it appears that Rose jumps into Thompson to initiate the contact. I was surprised this was called a foul when I saw it live. However, if you watch closely, Derrick actually resets his right foot before his shot and after his pump fake so that he would collide with Thompson when he went up for the shot. Had he gone up instead of readjusting his feet, this would have been a no call. Well done by the officials, even though the call came late (so I can understand the Cavs' frustration with the call).

3:36: Offensive foul called on LeBron, Bulls ball, LeBron too hurt to contest call
Sorry Bulls faithful, refs missed this one. When LeBron makes contact, Rose's left foot is just slightly off the ground, so because his feet aren't planted this should have been called a blocking foul. Considering how fast the play happens in addition to the fact that LeBron is running down the court with Marshawn Lynch-like intentions, I can't blame the refs for calling it the way they did. That doesn't mean they got it right, though. Point Bulls.

0:00: Cavs up 3-2 in Game 4, up 33.5-10.5 overall


7:38: Rose misses driving layup, no foul called, crowd is pissed
Rose gets fouled three separate times here. Mozgov gives him a light push in the back, Kyrie hits him in the wrist, and then he gets smacked on the wrist again by Mozgov. Three separate fouls in the span of two seconds, none of them called. I can promise you that if the rolls were reversed the Cavs would be shooting freethrows. I can't believe this wasn't called a foul. I should give the Cavs three points here but it's just a single play so I'll stick with +1 for Cleveland.

4:43: Foul called on Gibson, Mozgov missed dunk, doesn't agree with call
Taj clearly grabs Mozgov's left hand as he tries to flush it over him. There's really no reason for Taj to debate the call here, it's clear as day. Moving right along.

Bonus Vine: What is Noah doing here? Is he really this offensively inept? I don't know what's worse, him looking lost in the middle of the lane to the tune of a 360 or him missing two bunny putbacks badly. I want layup lines for Jo all offseason.

1:13: Offensive foul on LeBron, Bulls get possession, doesn't agree with call
Really? How does James even think he has a case here? Noah slides into position while James extends his arm into him before barreling straight into and over him. This isn't even close. LeBron really needs to stop complaining after every call that doesn't go his way. He's not quite as bad as Pau is but it's a very close second. Good on the refs for making the correct call.

0:14: Offensive foul on LeBron, Bulls get possession, doesn't agree with call
Again, really? LeBron elbows Dunleavy square in the top part of his collar bone. I can't believe there are Cavs fans that said either of these two calls were gifts by the officials. Neither of these are even close decisions. Cherish this stretch because we may never see the refs treat LeBron like the rest of the players on the court in this fashion ever again. Good call.

0:08: David Blatt calls for timeout, Cavs have none left, officials "don't see it."
I said I'm not going to include technicals in the score. I'm not gonna add points for the Cavs here even though I should add something like fifteen of them. You want an example of the refs directly influencing the outcome of a game, Cavs fans? Here it is. If the NBA upholds the rule it has in place, the Bulls get two freethrows and possession of the ball, and in all likelihood the game probably ends with a Bulls win. Instead, the officials "don't notice," and we all know what happens next. Absolutely ridiculous. It's a shame, too, because up until this point I think this was probably the best officiated game of the series.

0:08: LeBron stiff arms Butler the length of the court, no foul called
The. King. Can. Do. No. Wrong. Maybe LeBron really should have stuck with football, he looks like Beanie Wells or Marshawn Lynch on this play. You can see his arm extended from the sideline view all the way down the length of the court, then on the baseline angle you can see him extend the arm on Jimmy again. Do your job, refs. Two points for Cleveland.

0:01: Mirotic blocks LeBron's layup attempt, no foul called (Noah), doesn't agree with call
You can make a case LeBron travels here (he appears to drag his right foot along the baseline before going up) but the stronger case to be made is that Noah fouled LeBron and it didn't get called. Bulls fans will argue refs never call a foul like that in the final seconds but given how precise they had been with calls up until the final minutes they probably should have called this. Losing on freethrows would have stung less than losing on a buzzer beater like the one LeBron hits after this, but regardless, two points are getting awarded to the Bulls here. That being said, if the refs had called LeBron for heismaning Butler the length of the court (or you know, done their jobs with the timeout fiasco) this never would have happened to being with.

0:00: Cavs win Game 4 6-4, up 36.5-12.5 overall

So after four games, by my count the Cavs have gotten 24 total more favorable calls than the Bulls, which is an average of 6 more incorrect calls per game in favor of Cleveland. Will games 5 and 6 change this? Well, you'll have to tune in to Part III to find out! Expect it sometime on Sunday.

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