SALT LAKE CITY — Any short-term pain and frustration the Utah Jazz endured after a difficult overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers apparently was worth the dent in the standings and bank accounts of two players.
After several officiating calls went against the Jazz in the game three weeks ago, all-stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell blasted the refereeing. Predictably, the NBA fined Gobert $20,000 and Mitchell $25,000.
Mitchell, who got ejected and knocked over a water container on his way to the locker room, still was hot after the mandatory cooling off period. His comments were directed at the referees of the Philadelphia game but also applied to the season in general.
"It's tough to go out there and see how we fight and compete and to have a game like that taken from us," Mitchell said. "I'm never, ever one to blame the refs, to blame officials. I could say that we have done more, but this is getting out of hand ... and we're nice, we don't complain, we don't get frustrated, we fight through things and the fact that we just continually get screwed by this — like we won this game, in my personal opinion."
Gobert followed it up with his own pointed remarks.
"I feel like a lot of guys are able to do the things that we're not able to do, and our guys are not able to get some calls that everybody else in the (expletive) league gets," he said. "We know that we are the Utah Jazz and we know maybe some people don't want to see us go as far as I believe that we can go, but it's disappointing."
The fines have virtually no effect financially on the two multi-millionaires, nevertheless, call it money well spent. Let's just say the message was delivered.
Since each player's scathing rebukes of the officiating, the Jazz have been the beneficiary of favorable refereeing in the most obvious and important category. In the first five games since the public criticism, the Jazz have had a 147-87 advantage in free throws attempted.
Coincidence? Officiating usually is in the eye of the benefactor, but maybe the team with the NBA's best record is finally getting the respect Gobert and Mitchell believe they deserve.
In the 3-point win over the Toronto Raptors Friday, the Jazz made 35-of-41 free throws compared to Toronto's 11-of-14. Against the Boston Celtics, the Jazz had a 24-4 advantage at the line.
Angered by the huge disparity in the free throws, Raptors coach Nick Nurse threw his facemask behind the scorer's table and toward the stands in addition to swearing at the officials before leaving the floor after the game. His outburst resulted in a $50,000 fine.
It "just didn't seem like they were going to let us win tonight," Nurse said.
The 27-shot margin between the two teams was the second most in the NBA this season. The Houston Rockets shot 28 more free throws than the Golden State Warriors earlier last week.
It is worth noting the Raptors began this week shooting 4.5 free throws per game fewer than their opponents. The number is the second-largest difference in the league, behind the five fewer attempts the Chicago Bulls take.
In a 25-point Jazz win Monday night, the Bulls took 12 free throws, with several coming in garbage time. The Jazz were 13-of-15 from the line.
As an aside to the two fines, the entire no respect issue has tightened the bond between Mitchell and Gobert by way of creating an us vs. the world foxhole. Remember, we're only one year removed from reports their relationship was unsalvageable.