Once again, NBA admits to mistakes that proved costly to Bulls

Not surprisingly, the NBA confirmed two officiating errors late in the Bulls' overtime loss at Cleveland on Monday. Had either one been called differently, the Bulls almost certainly would have won in regulation time.

• As Bulls coach Billy Donovan suggested after the game, Cleveland's Donovan Mitchell should have been called for a lane violation on a late free-throw attempt, because he crossed the foul line before the ball hit the rim. Mitchell missed his second free-throw intentionally, then followed in the rebound to tie the score with three seconds left.

• Also, Cavs center Jarrett Allen should have been called for a travel before scoring his team's second-to-last basket with 12.1 seconds left. This one should have been obvious to anyone watching, since Allen caught the ball under the basket and took about six steps without a dribble as he pivoted in the lane.

The NBA releases a last-two minute report each day, reviewing all the potential calls in the final two minutes of the previous night's close games.

This was the second game in a row and third time this season the league admitted to late-game errors that cost the Bulls a chance at victory.

In the previous game against the Cavs on Saturday at the United Center, the league ruled that DeMar DeRozan was fouled by Caris Levert on his final shot attempt with the Bulls trailing by a point. DeRozan should have gone to the foul line with a chance to win the game with 2.6 seconds left.

Then, in the second game of the season at Washington, the NBA said referees also missed a foul on DeRozan's game-winning attempt in the final seconds. In that one, the Bulls trailed by 2 and DeRozan was fouled by Anthony Gill on a 3-point attempt.

And of course, it means nothing in the long run. As frustrating as it may be, the game in Cleveland will stay in the loss column forever. The Bulls are 16-21 heading into Wednesday's home game against the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA's hottest team with 12 straight wins.

"It doesn't do anything," Donovan said Monday about the then-pending two-minute report. "It's like, 'We're sorry.' But it could be three games in a row now. It could be at Washington, it could be the other (Cavs) game and it could be this game.

"And that's unfortunate, because I thought our guys battled and competed. Again, we have to control what we can control. We've got to block out better, regardless of the situation. We know they're going to miss, we've got to go in there and get it done."

DeRozan made his thoughts known after the Washington error was acknowledged.

"I'd rather them just keep it to themselves, honestly," DeRozan said in October. "Because what can we do now? I'm not Marty McFly or anything where I can go back to the future and replay it."

The lesson in all three of these games is to not let the outcome hinge on a call by the officials, because they are going to make mistakes. Knowing Mitchell would try to miss his second free-throw intentionally, the Bulls did a terrible job of boxing out.

Patrick Williams jumped over and stood in front of Mitchell, but watched the flight of the ball as Mitchell sprinted toward the basket. Donovan sent Andre Drummond into the game to help secure the rebound, but he was beaten badly by Robin Lopez, who probably would have scored if Mitchell didn't get there first.

The Bulls also squandered a 21-point lead in the first half against a Cavs team missing two of its four best players in Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. This two-game series was a great chance for the Bulls to continue their recent momentum.

"We've got to overcome things," Donovan said after the game. "I'm just a big believer of that. I think a lot of times you can look around and look at what everybody else is doing wrong instead of looking at yourself and what we can do better ourselves and what we have control over. There's clearly a lot we can do."

One sidebar to the referees' mistakes is Mitchell ended up scoring 71 points, the most ever by a Bulls opponent. He's just the seventh player in NBA history to record a 70-point game. Wilt Chamberlain did it six times. Michael Jordan's career-high was 69.

But if a lane violation had been called, Mitchell wouldn't have gotten the putback basket or the 13 points he added in overtime and finished with 56.

"I wish I saw it on ESPN against another team," Zach LaVine said of Mitchell's scoring outburst. "I just wish we played better defensively, gave him better looks, something. Too late to say that now."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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