ATLANTA (AP) - NBA referee Bennett Salvatore acknowledged Sunday that he blew a call in the closing minutes of Atlanta's 100-88 victory over the Chicago Bulls, which evened the Eastern Conference semifinal at two games apiece.
With 2 1/2 minutes remaining and the Hawks leading 90-84, Bulls star Derrick Rose went up for a shot beyond the 3-point stripe and appeared to be fouled by Jamal Crawford.
Salvatore blew his whistle, but ruled he had done it inadvertently. That led to a jump ball, which Atlanta's Josh Smith tapped away from Joakim Noah. The Hawks scored on that possession to essentially finish off the Bulls.
"An inadvertent whistle is when a referee blows a whistle and didn't mean to," Salvatore said. "That's exactly what happened. I blew my whistle and didn't mean to. I didn't think it was a foul."
Bennett changed his opinion after watching a replay.
"It was a foul and I should have called it," he said. "I made a mistake."
Rose walked away in disgust when he saw Bennett signal a jump ball instead of a foul. But the league's MVP brushed off the impact of the play on the Bulls' chances.
"That's basketball," he said.
Coach Tom Thibodeau argued for a foul but, like Rose, he didn't raise too much of a stink afterward.
"He just said it was inadvertent," Thibodeau said. "Bennett's a good official. He made a mistake."
Salvatore said he was "positive" there was no foul on Rose when he blew his whistle.
"It was a foul," the referee said. "I was wrong."
Paul Newberry can be reached at http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963