Time for Bulls to friend the refs?
Even after four games against the same opponent, there is always room for adjustments and the Bulls could use a few good ones trailing Miami 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bulls are facing a must-win scenario for Game 5 at the United Center on Thursday. Another loss and their season is over.
Maybe they should study the referee relations skills of Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. At most every stoppage of play during this series, Wade walks over for a conversation with one of the referees. Quite often, he was just called for a foul or missed a shot with no whistle.
James will join the conversations at times. Just as the two Heat stars have a strange habit of speaking to the media together, they'll also engage referees in tandem.
During halftime of Game 4 in Miami, while the rest of the Heat players were on the court warming up, Wade had a long discussion with referee Joe Crawford. Eventually, the pair walked over to the scorer's table and examined the game ball.
These conversations always seem cordial and Wade could be chatting about family members, barbecuing or the best choices for hotel on-demand movies, for all we know.
But after Miami built a 38-22 advantage in free-throw attempts in Game 4, maybe its time Derrick Rose tries harder to win friends and influence people.
It couldn't hurt, right?
"I think you've got to make your point at the appropriate time," coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday at the Berto Center. "I don't think that does much good. The officials know what's going on."
True, but most established NBA stars know how to work the referees. Thibodeau laughed when Boston's Paul Pierce was used as an example.
"I think it comes with experience, too," Thibodeau added. "Derrick has gotten to the line. I'd like to see him get there more. He has gotten to the line quite a bit.
"I thought they got to the line too much last game. That's a concern. Our discipline in challenging shots is important. I don't want to recklessly foul and give them points."
The Bulls aren't making this an issue, but they were obviously frustrated by many of the calls in Game 4.
But they can also look at it this way: Rose didn't shoot well, the Bulls lost defensive-minded center Omer Asik to a broken leg, Miami's Mike Miller scored more points in one game (12) than he had all season combined against the Bulls, the visitors were on the wrong end of about 15 questionable calls and they were still tied 85-85 at the end of the fourth quarter with a shot to win the game in the final seconds.
If the Bulls can reproduce that effort at home in Game 5, they should have a good chance to extend the series. There are plenty of examples in NBA history of a team coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series.
"I really believe we've got a group of guys that are going to keep on fighting," Luol Deng said. "There's no quit in us and there's no quit in that locker room. It's really going to come down to the end of the game again. You're going to get knocked down. A lot of times, you've got to keep on fighting and at the end, it's who's still standing up.
"Right now, we're not down. You could definitely make a case that we're on our way down, but we're not laying down yet."
The Bulls did plenty of things well in Game 4 and were much better defensively than they were in Game 3. Their biggest problem was 22 turnovers, along with long-range shooting. The Bulls were just 6-for-24 from 3-point range on Tuesday.
There is a small margin for error in this series, though, and a few bad plays turned the tables.
"Sometimes it's hustle plays," Thibodeau said. "It's getting to a loose ball, tipping the ball in, taking a charge, blocking a shot. Whatever it might be, getting into the open floor and getting easy scoring opportunities. Sometimes the ability to get to the free-throw line. All those things play into it."