There were 53 seconds left and the Jazz led the Magic by 14.
But Utah coach Quin Snyder wasn’t leaving the court without giving the officiating crew a piece of his mind.
Right after Donovan Mitchell — while guarding D.J. Augustin —was called for his fourth foul by referee Bennie Adams, Snyder decided he’d had enough. The fourth-year head coach stepped out onto the floor, pointing and shouting unquotable words. Adams quickly gave him a technical, and when Snyder persisted, fulfilled him with a full ejection.
In the end, Mitchell had to escort a convulsing Snyder off the court. Was it over the top? Sure. But the coach was trying to convey what his players were feeling in a 94-80 win over Orlando.
“I liked it,” said Mitchell. “I thought it was great and it shows the passion that he has.”
Asked about his ejection in the postgame press conference, Snyder had a calm, if short, explanation: “I thought that it was a poor call and commented on the call.”
But the more thorough explanation might be better told through a number of statistics, such as the Jazz not getting a free throw in the entire first half. And Mitchell and Ricky Rubio finished with nine combined fouls, with more than a few sketchy calls.
While the Jazz had more fouls than the Magic (22 to 19), it’s worth noting that fouls helped them win the game: Utah shot 10 free throws to Orlando’s four in the final quarter, helping the Jazz pull away late.
But it wasn’t about fair, or even necessarily about the individual call. Snyder’s hysterics at the finish of the game wasn’t a message to the officials as much as it was to his team. And that message was received — and received well. To a man, all the players asked about it in the locker room supported Snyder, even if they didn’t necessarily want it to happen again soon.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a good example, but it’s good to see that your coach is fired up and cares like that,” Rudy Gobert said. “I don’t know who was holding him back. I think it took five guys to hold him back. But once in while, it’s good.”
The Jazz’s frustration with officiating isn’t limited to even this season. It was last April when general manager Dennis Lindsey went public with a three-year period of research that showed the Jazz were consistently disadvantaged by officiating calls.
So far this year, officiating frustration hasn’t been any more of a drumbeat than any other year, and the Jazz are 12th in the league in fouls (19.6 per game), which is lower than their opponents.
Still, in games like Monday’s, there are times when Snyder wants to show his players his fire. And while he’ll pick and choose those moments, when he’s ready to show it, they might need to be ready to hold him back.
“Hopefully we can get a good whistle, a fair whistle,” he said. “Sometimes if we don’t feel that happens at a given time … sometimes you react, and in this case, I reacted. I generally don’t do that, but in this instance, I felt strongly about the situation.”