Rudy Gobert knows he got away with one. The Jazz know they got away with one. The Blazers know the Jazz got away with one. The referees know they let the Jazz get away with one.
But in the end, all the woulda, coulda, shouldas don’t count for much, Gobert’s goaltend of Damian Lillard’s tying layup try in the final seconds was erroneously ruled a block, and the end result is that the record books will reflect the Utah Jazz defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 117-114 at Vivint Smart Home Arena to snap a five-game losing streak.
In the aftermath of it all, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell conceded it was a missed call, and agreed with the idea that referees should be able to review such controversial plays even with no whistle in the moment — albeit with one caveat:
“Right now, no,” he said with a smile.
The first 47 minutes and 40.5 seconds of the game were crazy enough — 72-first half points for Portland, a huge post-halftime turnaround from the Jazz, enough chippiness and trash talking from all parties involved to warrant six individual technical fouls and Trevor Ariza’s ejection.
And then, with the Jazz up 116-114, Lillard drove the lane, put what might have been the game-tying layup off the backboard, Gobert swatted it, no call was made, Bojan Bogdanovic grabbed the rebound and was fouled, triple-zeroes went up with the Jazz on top by 3 a short time later, and then all hell really broke loose.
NBA official Josh Tiven admitted in a postgame pool report that the crew botched the play: “It was not reviewable since no goaltending call was made on the floor. … We’ve since looked at it via postgame video review, and unfortunately saw that we missed the play, and a goaltending violation should have been called.”
Lillard (who had another incredible performance, with 42 points, six rebounds, and six assists) quote-tweeted the pool report with an expletive.
His teammates were understandably equally livid, with backcourt-mate CJ McCollum taking particular issue with one member of the crew apparently telling him, “It wasn’t as obvious as you thought it was,” causing him to reply that the missed call, “Cost us the game. We can’t get it back.”
Back-and-forth exchanges broke out online between various players afterward, partly due to the result, and partly on account of Mitchell calling out Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. for “think[ing] he can just punk us.”
The Jazz, for their part, all acknowledged after the game that goaltending should have been whistled. Well, everyone except Mike Conley, who, not wanting to throw his teammate under the bus, gave a playful shrug — though when a follow-up inquired if he’d be upset were the roles reversed, he conceded, “Yeah, I would.”
Gobert admitted he and his team were the beneficiaries of a bad call, but hated that said call obscured all that came before it.
“Obviously, after watching the replay, you can see that was goaltending. I was just trying to make a play. Goaltendings happen all the time — it’s part of the game. Just one play,” he said. “… That’s what people are gonna talk about. They’re not gonna talk about us coming back from [16 down], and playing well as a team, and fighting to come back as a team. Obviously it’s a big play because it’s [one of the last plays] — it’s what everyone’s gonna remember, but I think we did a good job playing in the second half. Mistakes are made, officials are humans, and it’s part of the game.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, said that could empathize with Lillard’s anger, as the Jazz have had similar calls go against them this season.
“We’ve been on the other side of those calls — Memphis, Milwaukee. There’ve been times when we’ve been on the other side, so I can see where that frustration came from,” he said. “… I don’t really know what to say. We’ve been on the wrong side of that a few times, so I can understand where his frustration came from. He played a hell of a game. And we continued to fight.”
Indeed. They rallied from 16 down. They held Portland to 42 points in the second half. They showed some spark and some fight and some defensive acumen for the first time in several games.
And it’ll all be lost under the avalanche of criticism resulting from them getting away with one.
“It’s definitely not the way you want it to end, because we worked real hard to get there,” Conley said, “but at the end of the day, we’ll take it.”