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‘That’s something the NBA should look at’: Donovan Mitchell and Jazz agree league officials’ failures in Utah’s win over Blazers should prompt change

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) argues over a foul while being held back at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) argues over a foul while being held back at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — “A shame that it was decided by an inexcusable missed call,” Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”

The Utah Jazz walked away with a 117-114 win over the Blazers on Friday night, but instead of the narrative being about the Jazz breaking their five-game skid by beating one of the hottest teams in the West, the game became the most recent stain on the NBA after a blown call by officials in the final moments.

With 11.2 seconds remaining, Damian Lillard drove to the basket for a layup that would have tied the game. Rudy Gobert met Lillard at the basket and it was clear to nearly everyone that Gobert committed goaltending rather than cleanly blocking Lillard’s shot. Nearly everyone.

The officials did not whistle for any infraction, and because there was no call, there was nothing to review.

“They could have called goaltending and reviewed it but they swallowed their whistles,” Stotts said.

The Blazers were forced to foul Bojan Bogdanovic with nine seconds left, and after he went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, Caleb Swanigan missed a final 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have tied the game.

Lillard was furious as the final horn sounded and was held back as he screamed at the officials.

“It’s an easy call. Three referees out there and they don’t call that,” Lillard said. “They cost us the game. We’re in a playoff race and they cost us the game on an easy call.”

The NBA world was in an uproar after the game, which came on the heels of a Thursday night game between the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks in which the officials failed to see Orlando coach Steve Clifford ask for a timeout with 4.4 seconds left and missed a foul call on the Knicks moments later. Those missteps were laid out in Friday’s NBA Last Two Minute Report.

The Jazz and Blazers did not have to wait until the next day to hear from officials regarding the missed goaltending call, as officials admitted their mistake in response to a pool reporter on Friday after the game.

“The call needs to be made for a goaltending to be reviewable,” NBA referee Josh Tiven said. “We’ve since looked at it via postgame video review, and unfortunately saw that we missed the play, and a goaltending violation should have been called.”

The officials’ response only ignited Lillard further, as the Blazers guard lashed out on Twitter later in the night.

It wasn’t just the Blazers that knew the officials were wrong. One by one, Jazz players — including the offender — said that they saw the replay and saw clear goaltending.

“Obviously after watching the replay you can see that it was goaltending,” Gobert said.

For the 24-29 Blazers, who currently sit at ninth in the Western Conference, the impact of the missed call was immediate and the sting was burning and harsh. For the NBA, there is of course a larger problem that needs to be addressed.

With so many advances and changes in what is reviewable, as well as the introduction of the coach’s challenge, the thing that continues to plague the league is that non-calls are still not subject to immediate review or challenge, even in the final two minutes when officials have even more power to review calls. No whistle, no review.

It’s not the first time that this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. Even Donovan Mitchell, on the favorable side of Friday’s mishap, said that the NBA needs to change its ways.

“We’ve been on the other side. In Memphis I got fouled and there was no call, no whistle, so you can’t review it, I think that’s something the NBA should look at for sure,” he said. [Lillard] has every right to be upset.”

Because of the officials’ failure, their inability to call for review and the ensuing uproar, what will be lost, just as it is at the bottom of this story, is that the Jazz came back from trailing by as many as 16 to gain the lead against the Blazers.

A footnote to the NBA officials having back-to-back nights of blatant missed calls is that the Jazz broke their losing streak and did so with in-game improvement and increased defensive intensity, something they have been lacking for more than a week.

“That’s what people are going to talk about, they’re not going to talk about us coming back ... and playing well as a team and our fight to come back in the game,” Gobert said.

Mike Conley said that despite the blemish on the win, the rules are the rules and the Jazz will take the win, even if it comes marred in controversy.

“It’s definitely not the way you want it to end because we worked real hard to get there,” he said. “But at the end of the day we’ll take it.”

And that’s how it ends. The Jazz improve to 33-18. The NBA officials’ record, however, added another loss.