The Sixers and Jazz played in one of the best and most exciting games of the first half of the regular season on Wednesday night, so naturally the conversation afterwards was about the officiating.
The main point of contention came with 30 seconds left, when Royce O’Neale appeared to save a steal before he stepped out of bounds, but was ruled on the floor to be out. Upon review, the call was upheld as we eventually found out that the officials determined the ball hit the referee standing out of bounds before O’Neale saved it, which was not really visible on the initial review because of the angle.
Royce O'Neale out-of-bounds call pic.twitter.com/IhBDwAFMSh
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) March 4, 2021
Joel Embiid would hit a preposterous three to tie the game and force overtime on the ensuing possession, and from there, the Jazz were on tilt. Donovan Mitchell, who had 33 points to lead Utah, was ejected for two technical fouls in overtime and after the game he went off on what he feels is a pattern of the Jazz getting “screwed” by the officials. Mitchell will be joined on the Thursday fine list by his fellow All-Star teammate, Rudy Gobert, who went in even harder on the refs, insinuating calls are rigged against the Jazz because they’re a small market team and wondering what they have to do to get calls that others get around the league, as transcribed by the indomitable Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune.
Rudy Gobert's full comments after the game on the way the Jazz are officiated: pic.twitter.com/SRToSdu3TR
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) March 4, 2021
Gobert wasn’t happy with the way he felt Embiid, who had a dominant 40-point, 19-rebound performance, pushed him around at times, and he was also unhappy with the lack of calls for his guards on some late drives where they thought there was contact. Still, there are always calls that are questionable to downright blown on both sides, and it’s hard to really buy in on the “the NBA is rigging things against Utah” when the Jazz just went on a 22-2 run, with wins over most every top team in the NBA, before losses to the Heat, Pelicans, and Sixers this week. That stretch of three losses in four games seems to be the root of the issue, because, well, it’s kind of hard to buy in on the league having it in for the team with the best record.
There were undoubtedly some misses by the crew in Philly, but that happens nightly and the Jazz have surely been the beneficiary of some calls this season that they probably don’t remember because you never do. The All-Star break is probably coming at a perfect time for Utah, a team that went on a phenomenal run and is now getting everyone’s best shot and has dropped three close games, causing frustration to rise and a week off might help them get back level-headed for the second half push for the 1-seed in the West.