ATLANTA (AP) NBA referee Bennett Salvatore acknowledged Sunday that he blew a call in the closing minutes of the Chicago Bulls’ 100-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, 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.”

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. STATS LLC and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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