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SALT LAKE CITY — Thursday’s game should be remembered for an exhilarating duel between two of the league’s bright young stars. Brandon Ingram dropped a career-high 49 points, and Donovan Mitchell put up a career-high-tying 46 as the two went back and forth in the fourth quarter.
Yet, for the second time in 10 days, a Jazz-Pelicans contest will be remembered for a referee’s decision — or two.
The Pelicans beat the Jazz 138-132 in overtime at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans to end Utah’s 10-game winning streak. But it sure seemed like the Jazz had gotten a lifeline at the end.
Ten days ago, it was Rudy Gobert who got away with a foul in the final seconds to preserve a Jazz win.
On Thursday, New Orleans center Jaxson Hayes was called for a foul on Gobert with 0.1 seconds left on what could only be described as Utah’s Hail Mary attempt.
The game was over — or at least it sure looked like it. Ingram had put the finishing touches on the best game of his young career. He had outdueled Mitchell in the fourth quarter and hit what looked like the game-winning bucket, with 0.2 seconds left, that put New Orleans up by 1.
Utah (28-13) called a timeout with its only hope being a tip-in to win the game — a tip-in or a foul. Shockingly, the Jazz got the latter.
Joe Ingles threw the ball to the hoop where Gobert was waiting, surrounded by Pelicans. As he jumped, the officials deemed that Hayes grabbed him enough to merit making the unprecedented call. It was a shocking call, and one that is rarely made at the point in the game.
But, to Gobert, it was the correct one.
“I tried to get up and get the ball,” said Gobert, who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, “and someone grabbed me. If they hadn’t had grabbed me, there wouldn’t have been a foul.”
But that call, and the time just 10 days after Gobert got away with one, didn’t sit well with the crowd. As the boo’s rained down, Gobert went to the free-throw line with a chance to win the game.
He missed the first. He made the second. Overtime.
The controversial calls weren’t done there. With the Jazz up by 2 points with just over a minute remaining in the extra session, Gobert was called for his sixth foul on an Ingram drive. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder erupted from the bench and quickly challenged the call. Replays showed that contact was minimal — if there was any at all — but the call stood. Gobert had to watch the final 1:19 on the bench as the Pelicans went on an 8-0 run to win the game.
“It wasn’t a foul,” Gobert said. “I’m just gonna be straight up. It’s fine, everyone makes mistakes. I don’t understand why, if they can review it and see that it’s not a foul, why they didn’t overturn it.”
The controversial whistles overshadowed what ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the season — especially late.
It was Mitchell vs. Ingram.
With 6:15 left in regulation, Mitchell reentered the game with the Jazz trailing by 4. He immediately helped spark a 9-2 run to put the Jazz up, but things were just beginning. Mitchell would hit a 3. Then Ingram would answer. Then Mitchell would fire right back. And on and on it went.
Sure, it was the Jazz vs. Pelicans; but for the closing minutes in the fourth, it was Ingram vs. Mitchell.
Mitchell scored 11 points in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, including three 3’s that all seemed like they would pull the Jazz away. But Ingram wouldn’t be denied. After Mitchell missed an 18-footer that would have put the Jazz up by 3 with under 10 seconds remaining, Ingram drilled a 16-footer with 0.2 seconds left.
Ingram finished 15-of-25 shooting from the field and was an eye-popping 16-of-20 from the free-throw line. Mitchell was 16-of-24 from the field and 7-of-15 from the 3-point line. He scored 36 of his 46 points after halftime as the Jazz offense awoke, scoring 73 points in the second half. But they just came up short.
“These games come down to a few plays,” Snyder said. “We made a few, and there are some that we didn’t make. Tip our hat to New Orleans, they did an excellent job and made a few more than we did.”
Correction: A previous version misspelled Jaxson Hayes' first name as Jaxon.