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July 30, 2021

Jazz feel impact of 2-man officiating crew, but aren’t about to blame it in loss

SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert broke down all the reasons the Utah Jazz struggled to take care of the ball Saturday in a 101-96 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but threw a bit of a curve ball at the end of the explanation.

He credited the effort that Minnesota played with and the energy they expended to not only cut Utah’s drives off but to get into passing lanes.

“You gotta give them credit,” he said.

Then, almost in passing, he mentioned how the game was played with a two-man officiating crew for much of the night.

“I think losing one of the officials probably played a big part in that, too,” he said.

In the second quarter Saturday, veteran referee Bill Kennedy abruptly stopped play, talked to the Utah training staff and made his way down the tunnel. Kennedy’s night was finished due to an undisclosed injury. With that, the normal three-man crew was down to two.

“It’s certainly harder for them. I know some about the mechanics, but they have mechanics for a reason and they’re trained that way for a reason, so I’m sure it’s harder on them,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “But I thought they did an excellent job of really doing the best job they can.”

The coverage areas for each official had to be widened after Kennedy’s departure — that’s what Gobert was referencing. It wasn’t a criticism of the officials, just a comment on the situation. Two people are going to see less than three, and with the number of actions and movements going on during a possession, certain things were more likely to be missed.

“It’s not an easy job. It’s probably really hard to see that many things at the same time when you lose one of your teammates,” Gobert said.

With about four minutes remaining in the game, Gobert got an offensive rebound and was quickly surrounded by three Timberwolves. He tried to pivot to get free but the ball was knocked away.

Was there contact? Likely. However, neither referee was in a position to see it well enough to determine whether a foul was warranted, so play went on.

“I just feel like it really affected us in the wrong way tonight,” Gobert said. “Not saying that we would have won the game, but especially down the stretch, and, especially me, personally, when guys are just bumping me, grabbing me, it makes it tough.”

That said, Gobert made it clear the two-man crew wasn’t the reason the Jazz lost on Saturday — far from it. But he believes it can be a good learning opportunity for he and his team. He said the Jazz need to learn how to play through contact more effectively and how to better keep their composure when they think a foul occurred.

Like most teams, Utah has a tendency to argue calls instead of running back on defense this season.

For Gobert, the solution to getting more whistles is simple — and it has nothing to do with the number of refs.

“I feel like I got fouled but if I go strong, I think it’s easier for the official to see the call and to make the call,” he said. “So it’s on me. The stronger I go up, the more likelihood they’re gonna probably blow the whistle.”

Not to mention the stronger Utah plays, the less likely officials have an impact on the game. And with their performance on Saturday — with over 40% of the Timberwolves’ points coming off turnovers and offensive rebonds — the Jazz weren’t about to blame an injured ref for a loss.

“To be honest with you, I hadn’t really focused on the officiating right now, and so you brought it up because I know it’s kind of engrossed in some of the other things we’re talking about (the things the Jazz struggled with on Saturday),” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

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