A blown call in the closing seconds Friday night cost the Portland Trail Blazers a tying bucket against the Utah Jazz and left one of the NBA’s biggest stars livid.
With the Blazers trailing 116-114 late, Damian Lillard drove for a potential game-tying lay-up. Jazz center Rudy Gobert contested at the rim and got a piece of the ball, but only after Lillard’s shot had hit the backboard. Referees missed the obvious goaltending call, and Utah gathered the rebound. After a Portland intentional foul, Bojan Bogdanovic made one of two free throws, Caleb Swanigan missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Jazz won 117-114.
Replays clearly showed Lillard’s shot hit the backboard before Gobert touched the ball. Even in real time, it appeared clear there should have been a whistle for goaltending.
After the final buzzer sounded, Lillard was irate. He had to be held back by an assistant coach while he yelled expletives at the departing referees. Lillard’s anger carried over into the postgame locker room.
“It’s an easy call. Three referees out there and they don’t call that,” Lillard said. “I don’t want to see no report about, ‘Oh we should’ve called it,’ or none of that.”
Lillard was most upset about how the loss could potentially impact Portland in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers dropped to 24-29 and are 2½ games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place. Portland is one game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs and 2½ ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns in the tight race for the final West playoff spot.
“Ain’t no way to take the sting out of it,” Lillard said. “We can’t have the game back, they cost us the game. It’s a loss on our record.
“We’re in the playoff race, and we need every game that we can get, and we can have that type of effort and they miss an easy call like that. And then you want us to walk away and say nothing? Cost us the game, of course we’re going to have something to say about it. That’s BS.”
Crew chief Josh Tiven did admit in the postgame pool report that officials missed the call, but they could not review the play because goaltending was not called on the floor.
“Goaltending is only reviewable if we actually call it. The call needs to be made for a goaltending to be reviewable,” Tiven said. “We’ve since looked it via postgame video review and unfortunately saw that we missed the play, and a goaltending violation should have been called.”
Lillard finished with 42 points on 16-of-30 shooting to continue a hot streak in which he is averaging 42.4 points over his last nine games. He started 7-for-7 from the field, including four 3s, and didn’t miss until midway through the second quarter.
Lillard helped Portland take a 13-point lead in the third quarter before Utah rallied with a 20-6 run. They went back and forth in the final frame. Lillard tied it at 114 with a floater in the lane, then Donovan Mitchell put Utah back ahead with a driving lay-up on the possession before Lillard’s disputed shot.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.