Bulls irked by call after false whistle

MIAMI -- The Chicago Bulls felt an inadvertent whistle cost them possession and was a potential difference-maker in their 97-93 loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon.

With 16.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Heat leading 94-93, Heat guard LeBron James went to the foul line and missed a pair of free throws. After the second free throw, a referee mistakenly blew a whistle and players on both teams looked around in confusion. The Bulls thought they had called time out and would get the ball back after Dwyane Wade pulled down the rebound but appeared to be out of bounds. After a short conference, officials decided to throw a jump ball at center court. The Heat captured possession and the Bulls had to foul Mario Chalmers. The Heat guard ended up making one of two free throws to give the Heat a two-point lead they would not relinquish.

"I'll just leave it alone," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of the ruling. "I'm not going to say anything. All you've got to do is look at the tape."

When asked specifically what the officials gave him for an explanation, Thibodeau responded quickly.

"I have no comment," he said.

Thibodeau's players were a little more forthcoming with their frustration.

"I thought it was a whistle in the crowd," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "That was a bad sequence. But things like that happen in basketball games. It's unfortunate that it happened in such an important moment in the game. D. Wade's clearly out of bounds on the play at the end. For them to get the possession back in that situation (is) tough. It happens. We had our opportunities. No excuses. But we'll definitely be back. We'll be back here."

Bulls guard Rip Hamilton tried to take the call in stride.

"Once the ref blows the whistle, I thought the play is dead," Hamilton said. "And he signaled a time out from our side. But they came together, they changed it, and that's just the game for you."

While the Bulls weren't using the call as an excuse, it's clear that they felt they were the victim of an officiating error.

"We called time out and we thought we had the ball," Taj Gibson said. "(The officials) said it was an inadvertent whistle, so they had to jump it up. I thought Dwyane was going to jump it up, but they said anybody could basically jump it up. It's one of those plays."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.