By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — After Celtics star guard Isaiah Thomas torched his team in a 104-95 win in Game 4 on Sunday night, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg blasted the officiating over what he believes is their allowing Thomas to gain an advantage with hesitation dribbles that involve carrying or palming the ball.
Hoiberg went out of his way to levy the criticism in his response to the first question in his postgame press conference after Boston evened the series 2-2.
“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a helluva player, an unbelievable competitor,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a warrior, everything he’s going through right now. He had a helluva game tonight. But when you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he’s impossible to guard. He’s impossible to guard when you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball and take two or three steps and put it back down. It’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”
Thomas scored 33 points in Game 4 and got into the lane at will on the Bulls with an array of stop-and-start moves, no matter who was guarding him. Fed up with it all, Hoiberg unloaded his initial comments, then was short when pressed on a number of follow-up questions.
Have you been talking to the refs throughout the series about it?
“Yes,” Hoiberg said.
Is it something you can talk to the officials about before the game to watch for?
“Yes, you’re correct,” he said.
Are they saying they’ll watch for it?
“Yes,” Hoiberg responded.
Asked when carrying the ball is ever called in the NBA, Hoiberg called that a “great question.”
“They talk about it every year,” Hoiberg said. “They talk it every year being a point of emphasis. It should be called.
“I’ve said all I’m going to say about it. I’m not going to talk about it anymore.”
Thomas shot 10-of-21 from the field and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line. He also took issue with Hoiberg’s claim.
“That’s not the reason I’m an impossible cover,” Thomas said. “It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I’ve been dribbling that way my whole life. I don’t know what to say to that. I don’t think I’ve been called for it one time this year, so I don’t think that will change. I can’t recall one time this season I’ve been called for a carry.”
Bulls guard Dwyane Wade appreciated Hoiberg backing his players. Hoiberg is almost certain to draw a fine from the league. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was fined $30,000 this past week for criticizing officials.
“It’s great,” Wade said. “All players want coaches to have their back. Whenever a coach does that, it makes guys want to do a little bit more for them, want to give them a little bit more. It’s always great when you feel that a coach has your back.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.