Says who? The NBA, that's who.
The league office ruled Wednesday that the referees acted properly when they did not assess a flagrant foul against the Boston guard after he whacked Chicago's Miller in the mouth with two seconds remaining in Game 5 of the Boston Celtics-Chicago Bulls series Tuesday night.
A league spokesman said the play "stands as called," meaning there will be no further penalty against Rondo. League officials had the option of upgrading the foul to a flagrant -- category 1 or a flagrant-category 2 -- the latter of which occasionally can come with an accompanying suspension, if NBA officials deem the foul particularly egregious.
The blow from Rondo bloodied Miller's lower lip, and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro argued vehemently that a flagrant foul should have been called. But official Mark Wunderlich could be seen explaining to Del Negro that the referees believed Rondo was swiping at the ball.
"We felt Rondo was making a basketball play and going for the ball after a blown defensive assignment by the Celtics team," Jackson said. "In terms of criteria we use to evaluate a flagrant foul penalty 1, generally we like to consider whether or not there was a wind-up, an appropriate level of impact, and a follow through. And on this foul, we did not see a wind-up, nor did he follow through, so for that reason we're not going to upgrade this foul to a flagrant foul penalty 1. The initial play, in our mind, was on the ball -- an effort to try and make an attempt on the ball and take a foul that would prohibit a game-tying basket."
After a lengthy delay to treat Miller's wound (his tooth pierced his lip, resulting in a laceration that later required stitches), Miller missed the first free throw, then committed a violation when his intentionally missed second foul shot did not hit the rim.
"Rondo didn't come near the ball. He came right across his face. I agree that it is a hard playoff foul, but you still have to call it a flagrant and I'm sure that will be addressed," Del Negro said afterward.
Had the play been ruled a flagrant foul, Chicago would have retained possession following Miller's free throws.
Had the league reclassified the foul as a flagrant, it could have opened the door for the Bulls to file a protest -- although Jackson said an on-the-floor judgment call by a referee, even one that might later be reversed, would not be sufficient grounds for a protest.
Bulls general manager John Paxson declined to comment on Jackson's ruling.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.