The Triple Team: A Jazz fan won a car tonight — but almost didn’t

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A Jazz fan celebrates winning a car after shooting three-point shots during a break in action between the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 129-113 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. The games don’t matter

Signs tonight’s Jazz game didn’t matter to the decision makers involved:

• The team sent potentially useful players — Johnny Juzang, Micah Potter, Jason Preston, Kenneth Lofton, and Darius Bazley to the G-League Salt Lake City Stars for their playoff game tonight against the Santa Cruz Warriors. The former two have been in the Jazz’s rotation for the last couple of weeks, so Hardy was asked why the Jazz chose to send them down.

“We felt like it was a good opportunity to to get them with our Stars team with an opportunity to try to win. Those guys have put in a lot of work with that team. They’re gonna get way more minutes with them when it comes down to it,” Hardy said. “They’ve done a good job for us in the rotation. We plan on seeing them very soon.”

(The Stars lost 113-111. It was a pretty exciting game throughout, and perhaps Bazley’s best game since being signed by the Jazz, but in the end he didn’t get a shot off on a last-second drive as the Stars tried to tie the game. This round of the G-League playoffs are single elimination, but their season is done.)

Instead, the Jazz had just a 10-man rotation that involved Kira Lewis Jr. playing for 17 minutes. Walker Kessler broke his nose, so at one point, Luka Samanic played center. It’s rough.

• Donovan Mitchell is healthy, having come back from left knee soreness. But the Cavaliers decided to rest him tonight just in case, figuring they could win the game anyway. They were right. Plus, they’re playing the Suns in Phoenix tomorrow — this allows Mitchell to be fully rested for that game.

This is a bummer. Mitchell is in the Eastern Conference and only comes to Utah once per year, so that he didn’t play means fans have to wait for months, if not years, to see him again. But it’s something Jazz fans are used to: according to research from Tom Haberstroh, opposing stars miss 40% of games in Utah. That’s the highest rate in the league.

I hate that for Utahns, so much. My preference, at this point, would be league-employed doctors who can decide which players could miss games. I know that’s a solution that has problems too, but I don’t think any of them are worse than our current state of affairs.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) supports the team from the bench as the Utah Jazz host the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

2. Thank goodness that fan got his car

During a Jazz timeout, the on-court timeout game was their best — and one of the best in the league. Hit three 3-point shots in 30 seconds, win a free car from Ken Garff. I’m not sure I’ve seen a better value proposition in the NBA. Making three NBA threes with unlimited shots in a 30 second window is extremely plausible. For quality shooters, it’s even easy.

But tonight, there was nearly a shortchanging of the ages. The fan made his final shot, clearly released before the buzzer. Here’s the video:

This fan deserves a car! But Jazz in-arena voice Mike Goodkind instead announces: “We talked to the judges, and it was after the buzzer.” He says the fan is walking away with only $600.

The whole crowd was livid. It absolutely the loudest fans were all night, and fairly so. This fan, one of our own, had just been flimflammed!

The good news: the decision was reversed. In the next timeout, the Jazz Bear came out wearing a referee suit, and Goodkind announced the fan would indeed win the car. There was much rejoicing.

Here’s the word from the Jazz: in the back of the arena halls, the decision was made that while the fan had released the shot before the buzzer, he had not released the shot before a 30-second clock expired. At that point, a representative from Ken Garff was consulted, and that person decided to give the car to the fan anyway. That this is also the most charitable approach for the sponsor’s public image is not lost on me, but sure, we’ll go with it — the fan is getting a car.

By the way, I’ve asked, but at this point, I do not have an answer for what kind of car the fan gets. More reporting is to be done on this issue. After all, it was the most entertaining thing to happen at tonight’s game.

3. Will Hardy’s technicals

Before tonight’s game, I thought I’d something new with Will Hardy: I’d tell him about his technical count — 8 — for the season, and just see how he responded. Here’s his full answer:

“That sounds about right. I could get more.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy argues with referee CJ Washington (12) during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

“We also have a team that doesn’t have star players. When you watch a team play that has an All-Star on it, a lot of times the big name guys, they do a lot of talking to the officials. So they’re fighting for themselves and their team and all of those things. If each team has 100 units of fighting with the refs, they’re doing some teams, they’re star player is doing 60, and then their secondary player is doing 20, and that leaves 20 for the coach. On our team, I’ve got like 95. That’s just the reality of it.

“It’s never personal, like I never end up in a spot where I feel like the referees and I have a bad relationship. I mean, some of the guys who have given me the most technicals are guys that I have the best relationship with, but it’s just part of the job. I think it would be weird if I just stood there and our team never really said anything to the ref and I never really said anything to the ref and the other team is constantly sort of politicking with them about what’s going on in the game.

“I also have my breaking point as you guys know, where sometimes you’ve got to snap and get their attention a little bit. Eight... I mean honestly, I probably have deserved a few more this year. Generally you can get them when you say bad words. I try not to curse very much. I think I can get my point across without cursing, but sometimes it comes out.”

Are you looking forward to getting thrown out of a game?

“Yeah, this has been a big topic of conversation actually. I think it’d be fun. But the key I think for me would be avoiding any sort of activity that can result in a fine afterwards. That’s not what I want. You know what I mean? You do it, it happens. I would like to do it in this building. I think the crowd generally appreciates things like that. But we’ll see.”

A big topic of conversation with who?

“The staff. It’s funny, you’ll see around the league, sometimes a head coach starts going at the ref and you see assistants jump up and grab them. No one grabs me. Lamar (Skeeter)’s decent, but he just like stands there. Lamar comes up and just kind of like wants to be nearby. You could go back and watch, no one’s ever come up and grabbed me and said like ‘Hey, you’re good, you’re good, back off.’

So there you go — Will Hardy thinks it would be fun to be thrown out of a game. We’ll see if he can accomplish this goal in the season’s final two weeks.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cleveland Cavaliers guard Max Strus (1) moves in on /Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) as the Utah Jazz host the Cleveland Cavaliers in NBA action at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

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