The Triple Team: Questionable calls sully terrific performances from Donovan Mitchell and Brandon Ingram in Jazz loss

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans guard E'Twaun Moore defends during overtime of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. The Pelicans won 138-132. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 132-131 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.

1. For the first time in a while, the Jazz were a little bit too predictable in the clutch

Donovan Mitchell and Brandon Ingram were absolutely killing it in the second half. I mean, 46 points and 49 points respectively? Come on. It was wildly impressive from both.

But the difference in the game ended up being how those stars played and how they were defended in the final minute plus overtime. Mitchell was 2-11 from the field with one assist and no trips to the line, while Ingram was 1-1 from the field, 7-11 from the free-throw line, and added three assists and a turnover. Both got the ball nearly every time, but the Jazz got eight points from Mitchell’s 12 possessions, while the Pelicans got 15 points from Ingram’s 10 possessions. That was enough to win the game.

Again, Mitchell was incredible nearly all evening. He was the reason the Jazz had the lead in the first place. But that remarkable performance, at the end of a road trip, is tiring. So he missed his final six shots, and you understand why. Like, this is a tired decision: he had way more time than that and could have gotten much closer to the rim before throwing this up.

On the other hand, the Jazz’s play with Bogdanovic late didn’t go well: Bogdanovic threw it away to E’Twaun Moore, who scored the game-winning points on a fast-break and-one layup. So it’s hard to suggest another option here.

While the Pelicans had good success just switching to defend Mitchell, the Jazz chose to trap Ingram. That makes some sense given their personnel, but also meant that Derrick Favors was open rolling to the rim. And Favors is so, so good at turning that into two points.

I’m not sure Ingram makes these plays last year; he’s become a much more efficient player on the back of making the right read more often. But he’s taken a leap this year, and so led the Pelicans to this win. It was really impressive.

2. The game was sullied by poor refereeing

That was an intense game, there’s no doubt. But in those situations, you hope that the league’s officials will step up to the plate, and Thursday night, they didn’t.

It sure looks like Mitchell’s toe is on the line here, right? At the very least, it’s close. But none of the three officials saw that it was close, and none of them signaled for review.

Update: I’m told the 3-pointer above was reviewed by the league office, who found that Mitchell was behind the line when the shot was taken. In general, the league reviews all threes, new this year — refs no longer have to signal for the review.

Then, there was the foul given with 0.2 seconds left, with the Jazz down one. Jaxson Hayes probably did grab Gobert somewhat, but the contact wasn’t egregious. More importantly, it’s just, so, so rare to see a foul called in that situation... as Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said, he’s been in the league for 31 years, and he wasn’t sure he’s seen a call like that. It’s just a soft, soft, soft whistle.

It was a gift for the Jazz, one that they didn’t fully take advantage of, with Gobert only make one of two FTs. That earlier point on the Mitchell three really mattered!

First Jazz possession of overtime, Mitchell gets fouled by Josh Hart, throws it up, and it goes in. The foul occurred after the gather, so the basket should have counted, but the refs ruled it on the floor. The Jazz would go on to score 2 FTs in the possession. Here’s the replay:

1:27 left in OT, Jazz up two. Mitchell misses the layup, but Gobert has a putback dunk. He’s then fouled by Ingram, but there’s no whistle from Marat Kogut or Matt Boland.

Gobert goes down on the other end and defends Ingram’s drive. A foul is whistled here, it’s Gobert’s 6th. It’s challenged, and remarkably, the play isn’t overturned.

After the game, crew chief Mark Ayotte told a pool reporter that there wasn’t “clear and conclusive evidence” to overturn the play. They’re looking for a gap between Ingram and Gobert’s body that showed contact was never made in the lower body, and they couldn’t find a replay that found it.

That’s a terrible decision, though. In my opinion, Gobert was in legal defending position anyway. He got to the spot, jumped vertically, and stayed square to Ingram. Furthermore, he didn’t make contact. I don’t know what else he could have done. Watching the replay, it was clear that the officials had made the wrong call, but they let it stand anyway. That’s wrong.

This is my personal bone to pick — I hate late whistles, but the league doesn’t care so long as the calls are accurate — but Marat Kogut also only blew the whistle after the shot missed on the play. He was guessing all the way on the play, got caught by the coach’s challenge, and then the crew didn’t own up to the mistake.

One bad call compounded another, compounded another, compounded another, compounded another... it was the referee equivalent of a 4-17 FG night with eight turnovers. We have review in place to mitigate the most important of those whistles, but for a second straight Jazz/Pelicans game, review didn’t come in handy when it should have.

Two things frustrate me the most: getting these calls right with the benefit of replay review is something that the layperson could do, and the league isn’t getting them right. Second, that these poor calls took away from the attention of a phenomenal performance by the league’s up and coming stars.

3. Bench thoughts

The Jazz could have won this game in regulation if the Jazz’s bench played better, but they didn’t. Some quick hitters down the board:

Jordan Clarkson was fine. 5-11, 15 points, a turnover, and a Jazz-worst -11. The ball stuck a little in his hands, but he scored relatively effectively.

I had just finished saying some really nice things about Emmanuel Mudiay on NBATV, and then he reverted back to old Mudiay tonight. He went 1-5 from the field, added two turnovers in the span of 12 seconds. In particular, he’s just not vertically athletic enough to challenge anyone at the rim, bigs or wings. He should always pass the ball in those situations, especially in transition.

Georges Niang is going to be really valuable if he’s hitting his threes, and not valuable if he’s not. He went 0-4 FG, 0-3 from 3-point range.

Rayjon Tucker has promising athleticism and defensive drive, but he’s going to need to get his 3-point shot under control to make it in the league. Right now, every one is going three feet beyond the basket, he’s clearly nervous in those catch-and-shoot situations. This should mitigate with time on the court, but you’d have hoped he’d get over those jitters by now.

Tony Bradley has games where he does some really nice things, and he’s clearly been an upgrade over Ed Davis in the Jazz’s bench unit. And yet, he has enough faults that I just don’t think he’s going to be playable in the playoffs this year. He’s rotating over late, meaning either pick-and-roll layups or trips to the free-throw line for his opponents. And he’s just not an athletic or confident enough finisher around the rim right now, getting blocked or otherwise effected at the rim way too easily. This is a position the Jazz could and should look to upgrade at the deadline in a few weeks.