Damian Lillard and Terry Stotts were both angry with the officials after the Portland Trail Blazers fell to a controversial 117-114 defeat in Utah on Friday.
With Utah leading by two and under 15 seconds left, Lillard drove in an attempt to tie the score. His shot hit the glass and was on its way into the basket before Utah’s Rudy Gobert tipped it away, but goaltending was not called despite it being obvious to just about anyone watching the game.
The three officials failed to spot the call and according to Lillard, they were adamant it was clearly not a goaltend when making the call on the floor.
The 2020 NBA All-Star, who dropped 42 with another impressive performance in his team’s losing effort, raged at the officials on court, and his anger was clearly still bubbling away when he spoke to reporters afterwards.
Highlights of the Portland Trail Blazers’ visit to the Utah Jazz in Week 16 of the NBA season
“It cost us the f***ing game, man,” said Lillard, who felt the officials were lenient towards Utah throughout.
“They double-teaming, trapping me, trying to be physical… I shot three free throws the whole game. I’m telling [the officials that] they’re grabbing, they’re bumping, they’re holding the whole game. That’s fine.
“We get to the last play of the game and they miss an easy call. And then they tell us it’s an easy no-call, like that was obviously not a goaltend. It cost us the game, man, it cost us the game!
“I love the way we played, it’s a back-to-back against a team that plays really well at home and we came out and did what we’re supposed to do. We had a great first half, they made their run and got back into the game and we weathered the storm, gave ourselves a chance to win a tough game on the road.
Lillard gives his reaction after Utah Jazz’s controversial win over the Portland Trail Blazers
“Like I said, they cost us the game. It’s an easy call. Three referees out there and they don’t call that!”
Lillard also said he wasn’t interested in hearing the NBA’s Final Two Minute Report, where all decisions down the stretch are reviewed by the league. Unsurprisingly, the report found that it was a missed call.
Players and pundits around the league rounded on the officials for such an obvious error.
Luka Doncic asked: “How do you miss that call?” Enes Kanter tweeted: “ROBBED!”
Watch this ridiculous three-pointer deep in the fourth quarter from Lillard as he posted 42 points against the Utah Jazz
JR Smith suggested the refs “should be fined for that performance”.
Top NBA pundit Adrian Wojnarowski described the events as “a hellacious end” after what’s been “sloppy run of NBA officiating”, with officials only the night before missing Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford’s vocal attempts to call a timeout for the team in the final seconds of the game.
Portland played the final 34-plus minutes in Salt Lake City with just seven players after guard Anfernee Simons departed with a concussion and forward Trevor Ariza was ejected. The Trail Blazers were already without center Hassan Whiteside (leg) and forward Nassir Little (ankle).
Coach Terry Stotts was proud of his team’s performance, especially undermanned on the back end of a back-to-back but was left ruing the bogus no-call which cost his team.
“I was really proud of our guys,” said Stotts. “I mean obviously we’re shorthanded and it was an outstanding effort by everybody who played and it’s just a shame it was decided on an inexcusable missed call.
“They could have called goaltending and reviewed it but they swallowed their whistles on a play which was pretty obvious so such a great effort was decided by that.
Terry Stotts reacts to the Blazers’ controversial loss
“There wasn’t a lot to say [afterwards], everybody was pretty p****d off. You would think they’d get that one right. I don’t complain about officiating, they do a tough job, but a play like that is inexcusable.
“They said it wasn’t a goaltend, all three of them. Everybody stepped up, we made a lot of good plays so like I say it’s really disappointing not to come away with the win after that.”
Referee Josh Tiven admitted to pool reporter Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest that they got it wrong after the game.
“It was not reviewable since no goaltending call was made on the floor,” he said. “Goaltending is only reviewable if we actually call it. The call needs to be made for a goaltending to be reviewable.
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“We’ve since looked at it, via postgame video review, and unfortunately saw that we missed the play and a goaltending violation should’ve been called.”
Lillard warned about the potential playoff implications their refereeing error could have for his team, with Portland currently sitting 2.5 games back from the Memphis Grizzlies in the final playoff berth in the West.
“There’s no way to take the sting out of it,” he said. “We can’t have the game back, it’s a loss on our record.
“We’re in a playoff race and we need every game that we can get where we have that type of effort and they missed an easy call like that. And then you want us to walk away and say nothing?
“It cost us the game, of course we’re going to have something to say about that.”
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