Damian Lillard did everything he could to lead the Portland Trial Blazers to a win on Friday night in Salt Lake City.
The Trail Blazers star dropped 42 points on a night where they were battered by injuries, and was in perfect position to send the game into overtime in the final seconds.
Yet, officials let what should have been a goaltending call go, which led the Utah Jazz to a much-needed 117-114 win at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Lillard, holding the ball down two points with just seconds to go, drove to the hoop and put up a layup — which was on track to fall and likely send the game into an extra period. After it hit the backboard and was on the way down into the net, however, Jazz center Rudy Gobert came through and blocked it — something that should have been an easy goaltending call.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts: “Just a shame that it was decided by an inexcusable missed call... they could have called a goaltending and reviewed it, but they swallowed their whistles.” pic.twitter.com/iYsHUEYvwT— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 8, 2020
That call, though, was never made.
So, after one final free throw, the Jazz picked up the three-point win and snapped a five-game losing skid.
Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, understandably, was not happy. His team, he said, “was pretty pissed off.”
“Just a shame that it was decided by an inexcusable missed call,” Stotts said, via Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. “There’s no other way to describe it. They could have called a goaltending and reviewed it, but they swallowed their whistles on a play that was pretty obvious. It’s disappointing that such great effort was decided by that.”
Crew chief Josh Tiven said after the game that once they saw the play on film, the goaltending violation was clear.
NBA Referee Josh Tiven comments to a pool reporter after Trail Blazers-Jazz game: pic.twitter.com/6Qd80JLXO4— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) February 8, 2020
The Jazz rallied all the way back in the second half to put themselves in that position, climbing out of a 16-point deficit before jumping to a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter. They held the Blazers to just 17 points in the third, outrebounded them by 16 points and scored 20 more points in the paint in the second half, too.
Bojan Bogdanovic led Utah with 27 points while shooting 10-of-16 from the field. Mike Conley added 18 points, and both Donovan Mitchell and Gobert finished with 16 points in the win.
Lillard led Portland with 42 points while shooting 8-of-14 from behind the arc, and added six assists and six rebounds. CJ McCollum added 27 points.
Following the disappointing end to the game for the Blazers, Lillard took to Twitter to vent his frustration. (Warning: NSFW language)
We don’t wana hear this punk Ass shit. https://t.co/nuG56kaHbR— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) February 8, 2020
He also went after Donovan Mitchell, who wouldn’t back down.
Anfernee Simons out early with scary head injury
Earlier in the game, Anfernee Simons went down with a scary head injury in the first quarter.
Simons attempted a shot from the free-throw line but was off the mark. As he came back to the ground, Simons lost his footing and fell straight onto his back.
When he made contact with the ground, his head whipped back and slammed into the court hard — which left him down clearly in pain as play continued to the other end of the floor.
The Trail Blazers eventually had to call a timeout, and Simons was looked at and helped off the floor into the locker room.
Upon closer look, it appears as if Simons lost his balance after connecting with Jazz forward Royce O’Neale’s leg.
Taking another look at O'Neale's sweeping leg that caught Simons and made him go off-balance pic.twitter.com/tH4z1UdtPH— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) February 8, 2020
Portland later announced that Simons has a concussion and would not return to the game. The 20-year-old finished with five points, shooting 2-of-3 from the field, with one rebound and one assist.
Trevor Ariza ejected after meltdown
Not long after Simons went down, Trevor Ariza was thrown out of the game for arguing with an official.
Just minutes into the second quarter, Ariza drove to the hoop and tried to get a shot up over Gobert. His off-balanced shot was off the mark and quickly rebounded by Utah.
As the play started going the other way, however, Ariza started screaming at the official on the baseline, upset that he wasn’t given a foul call on the shot despite Gobert making minimal — if any — contact with him.
The official handed Ariza a technical foul. The Blazers guard didn’t let up, earning a second technical and subsequent ejection almost instantly.
Ariza finished the night with two points in nine minutes, shooting 1-of-3 from the field.
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