Boston led by one as the Bulls looked for a go-ahead shot. The inbound went to Jimmy Butler who sized up Marcus Smart, then went to his patented stepback jumper against some stellar defense. The shot came up short and it looked as if the Celtics would escape with the win.
However, the whistle sounded right after the final buzzer. Butler was awarded free throws based on minimal contact on his elbow and promptly drained two for the win.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas ripped the decision.
"Horrible call. It was a bad call that cost us the game. I thought we won. I ran out onto the court ... then you see him raise his hand up like it was a foul. The Bulls were even shocked. It's horrible when it cost you a game that you should have won. That's a bad call," Thomas said.
A down-trodden Smart said the official was influenced by Butler's pleas.
"When Jimmy shot the ball I heard him scream, 'No Foul?' As soon as he said that the whistle blew and I looked and I saw (the referee) raise his hand for the foul. I couldn't believe it," Smart said.
"It was a big letdown, especially for me. I'm one of the best defenders in this league. I played great defense there, I know I did. I moved my feet, I did everything right, my hands were up. I got punished for playing good defense, I guess."
Butler, the beneficiary of the call, naturally supported the decision.
"A foul is a foul. He hit my elbow," he said, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.