Sports / Utah Jazz / 
Utah Jazz's Royce O'Neale reacts after a foul call during overtime in an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) [Mar-03-2021]

From the comments: Were the refs really to blame for the Jazz's loss at Philadelphia?

By Ryan Miller, KSL.com | Posted - Mar. 4, 2021 at 11:40 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz had some choice words for the officials following their 131-123 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. What did KSL.com commenters have to say about the game?

"I rarely like to blame the refs, but that was horrible. It seemed obvious they wanted to make sure the Jazz lost." — chevcamaro18

Not surprisingly, there were a few of these types of comments. The Jazz were visibly frustrated on the court and then aired their grievances after. And, to the Jazz, it wasn't just simply about Wednesday's game, but a bigger problem where they are claiming they are not getting the same calls as everyone else.

Heading into Wednesday's game, the Jazz have played seven games that were close enough in the final two minutes to merit the league releasing an officiating report on the closing moments. In those games, the Jazz have been disadvantaged by incorrect calls four times and advantaged by incorrect calls four times.

But what about Wednesday? Let's take a look.

The one play that got the internet up in arms was Royce O'Neale's apparent save with 28 seconds remaining. The thing is it shouldn't have made anyone that mad. The officials didn't explain that the ball had hit a referee prior to O'Neale grabbing it and throwing it back into the court. And because of that — and the replays that did not show that key detail — everyone seemed to be scratching their heads. It felt like the Jazz were getting one pulled over on them, but it was the correct call.

But what about the others?

We rewatched the fourth quarter and overtime and picked out the times the Jazz were clearly frustrated with the lack of no call (or in one case, a call) to see whether their complaints have merit.

Rudy Gobert said there were three consecutive drives where he felt Conley was grabbed but no call was made. This sequence is likely what he's referring to. On the first play, Matisse Thybulle reaches as Conley drives to the basket. It's a difficult angle, but it looks like there is some contact; no call is made. On the second, Thybulle blocks Conley's floater attempt. You can decide if there is arm contact or not.

Seth Curry knows he's beat and certainly looks like he's taking a foul here by reaching out and grabbing O'Neale. It's not called. But here's the thing: The no call should have benefited the Jazz. It gave O'Neale a wide-open lane to the hoop, but he botched the layup. Should the foul have been called? Yes. But this might speak to a bigger issue on Wednesday: The Jazz didn't make enough plays down the stretch.

This might be where Mitchell started to feel really frustrated. His initial shot gets blocked, but he's able to get his own rebound and put up a second attempt. If you slow it down, it certainly appears Joel Embiid got Mitchell's arm on that second shot — which would explain why it was so wide right.

The 76ers also thought they should have gotten more calls — this one specifically. Embiid gets Gobert slightly up in the air and Gobert's arm is not all the way vertical. This isn't a terrible no-call, but it could have merited a whistle.

Who hooked whom? That's the question. Though as Ben Simmons recovers from the screen, it looks like he's the first one to slide an arm in so he can body up Mitchell.

This was the one that really sent everything spiraling. Mitchell got a technical for his reaction and the Jazz as a whole never recovered. Was it correct? It probably looks more like a foul than anything else, but Gobert did have a forearm on Embiid and does push it forward ever so slightly when Embiid goes for the dunk. The frustrating part for Utah was Mitchell and Conley probably could have been given similar forearm calls on the other end.

"Bogey got exposed defensively in the post, Harris scored straight on him in overtime." — wkwk.

Despite the hand-wringing over the refs, there was a game still going on between calls. A big part of the 76ers' overtime success was isolating Tobias Harris on Bojan Bogdanovic and letting him go to work.

This is starting to become a trend for the Jazz, too: In all three of Jazz's losses on the just-wrapped four-game road trip, teams have found success doing something similar.

The Heat used a small-small pick and roll to get Jimmy Butler onto Bogdanovic, and the Pelicans used a small-small pick and roll to get Zion Williamson a lane to the hoop. Philadelphia used a similar concept, just in a different way. Some of it is about Bogdanovic, yes, but most of it is creating a way for the offense to operate away from Gobert.

During the isolations, Embiid remained outside the 3-point line, forcing Gobert to stick at least somewhat close to him. That gave Harris space inside to punish Bogdanovic.

Harris scored 11 of Philadelphia's 13 points in the overtime session, going 4-for-5 from the field. The Jazz scored just 5 in the extra five minutes.

"Let's see. Jazz goes 4 for 10 in the last 5 minutes of regulation then 1 for 9 in OT. Definitely refs' fault for losing." — Bones_in_the_Sky

Officials aside, the Jazz were pretty bad in the closing minutes. The Jazz were actually 1-for-10 in the final five minutes, including going 1-for-7 from 3-point range. And Mitchell was the key culprit.

Heading into the final two minutes, Mitchell had scored 31 points and was 12-for-25 from the field. He had played phenomenally and the Jazz were on the verge of closing out the first-half of the season with an impressive road victory. He was the reason for that. He just couldn't finish it.

In the last two minutes of the 4th quarter and overtime, Mitchell went 0-for-9, had two turnovers and just two 2 points. Not a great finish — and that makes it easier to be a bit frustrated over some calls.

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