Sports

Joel Embiid and the refs made the Jazz meltdown

The Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz played a game on Wednesday night that was fitting of their status as the No. 1 seeds in each conference heading into the All-Star break. The Sixers’ thrilling 131-123 overtime victory gave us everything a great regular season game should have.

The Jazz swung the ball around the perimeter and put on an impressive shot-making display, hitting 21 threes at a 47.7 percent clip. Joel Embiid continued to build his MVP case for Philly with an incredible performance: 40 points, 19 rebounds, and the game-tying three-pointer to force overtime. The game also gave us the controversial ejection of Donovan Mitchell late, some heated post-game quotes from Utah’s star players, and maybe even a new meme. Ideal regular season game all the way around.

The refs have surged to the center of NBA discourse over the last few days, and the Sixers-Jazz game will take that conversation to the next level. The most controversial call was one the refs actually got right: with under 30 seconds left and Utah up three, Utah forward Royce O’Neale appeared to save the ball before it went out of bounds, but the refs awarded the Sixers possession.

It was the right call because the ball hit a ref who was standing out of bounds, and the ref is considered part of the court.

Even if the call was accurate, the refs appeared to do a poor job explaining themselves, which led to frustration that would eventually boil over for Utah.

The Sixers would then force overtime when Embiid hit this ridiculous three-pointer to tie the score. In a historic season from Embiid, this might be his greatest moment yet.

The intensity reached a new level in overtime when Utah was called for a foul on Embiid. As Jazz players threw their hands up in disbelief, Embiid urged the refs to call a technical foul on Mitchell for his reaction.

The refs gave Embiid the call he was looking for, and hit Mitchell with the T. Embiid is truly a national treasure for this one.

Mitchell was still fuming over the final minute of overtime, and picked up another technical foul that led to his ejection.

As Mitchell was walking off the court, Embiid came over to him and appeared to try to comfort him. Mitchell then socked the water cooler on his way to the tunnel.

Mitchell and co-star Rudy Gobert both picked up questionable offensive foul calls late and that had the Jazz stars fuming. Here’s one of the plays in question.

Mitchell and Gobert then lit into the referees after the game in comments that are sure to earn them a hefty fine from the league office. At least they got their money’s worth.

Mitchell said: “I’m never one to blame the officials, but this is getting out of hand… the fact that we get continually screwed like this… we won this game, in my personal opinion. I’m sick of it. This eats at me. Y’all know what it is, we know what it is, but it’s getting out of hand. The league needs to do something about this.”

Gobert went even harder, suggesting that the league had a bias against the Jazz because they come from a small market.

Gobert’s full quotes are pretty astonishing to read.

Meanwhile, Embiid was in jovial spirits after the game. The Sixers star tweeted a clip of him asking the refs to give Mitchell a technical.

He’s really living up to the “Troel” moniker he’s trying to give himself.

Mitchell responded and the two players had a pleasant exchange on Twitter:

Despite the frustration, it’s clear the Sixers and Jazz have respect for each other, which is nice to see. Will this be an NBA Finals preview? Maybe not, but both of these teams have had incredible regular seasons at the start of the new year.

This is as good as regular season basketball gets from every angle. It might not have been a fun game for the Jazz, but fans of the league sure enjoyed it.



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