HOUSTON — Basketball games aren’t decided by one particular play, but NBA officials are now admitting that they missed a critical call late in Utah’s 102-97 loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday.
Reigning MVP James Harden ended with 47 points, including the game-winning dagger with 13.3 ticks remaining, but it was the possession before that where he got away with an illegal move.
Matched up in an isolation situation with Ricky Rubio, Harden made two consecutive stepback moves before hoisting up a 3-point attempt and receiving a foul call. After review, the official Twitter account of NBA referees admitted Tuesday afternoon that they got it wrong, but it doesn’t change the outcome.
“The offensive player gathers the ball while on his right foot,” @OfficialNBARefs wrote. “He then takes a step with his left foot (step 1) into a hop step, landing first with his right foot (step 2) and then illegally with his left (step 3). We missed this one — it is a traveling violation.”
The offensive player gathers the ball while on his right foot. He then takes a step with his left foot (step 1) into a hop step, landing first with his right foot (step 2) and then illegally with his left (step 3). We missed this one - it is a traveling violation. https://t.co/BqMAoZHgIu— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) December 18, 2018
The Jazz Twitter account responded to the thread with a GIF of Royce O’Neale looking surprised, but Jazz players and coach Quin Snyder were hesitant to criticize referees for missing it after the loss in fear of being fined.
“I'm not going to answer, but I think 100 percent of the people know the answer,” Rubio said.
"I didn't see it live, I saw that video,” said Jazz center Rudy Gobert added. “I mean, that's a new move. I haven't seen it before."
Even Harden told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, “what do you want me to say? Tell on myself?”
Despite the missed call, the Jazz still shot just 39 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from three and trailed by as many as 18 points with a season-high 24 turnovers.
Utah did hold Houston to 37.2 percent from the field and outrebounded the Rockets 52-39 while forcing 17 turnovers, but Harden saved the day with 29 second-half points. He also ended with six rebounds, five assists and five steals.
“Defensively, I thought we did a good job holding them (Utah Jazz) under 100 points and fighting for four quarters,” Harden said.
The Jazz (14-17) will now return home to face the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Wednesday after losing four of their last five contests. Utah has played the league’s toughest schedule, according to ESPN, and is meeting Golden State for the first time since their epic game on Oct. 19 where the Warriors won, 124-123, behind former Jazzman Jonas Jerebko’s tip-in with :00.3 remaining.
Although the opponents are tough, Snyder is preaching for his players to stay locked in on a game-to-game basis.
“I don’t think that we can look at a five-game stretch,” Snyder said. “Whether we are on the road or at home, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we just need to dig in and focus on what we need to do to win the next game.”
So although Harden’s missed call was a huge topic throughout the league and social media, Jazz star Donovan Mitchell is preparing for the Warriors now but not before he also fired off a blank-facedJustin Timberlake GIFto @OfficialNBARefs once they announced their mistake.
“One game at a time,” Mitchell said after posting 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists against Houston. “If we look at it as a stretch, that’s when it starts to get monotonous, and like man, it’s tough. We’ll look at it one game at a time. We had this one, and now we’ll go on to the next.”