Utah Jazz HC Will Hardy speaks out on ‘Gross’ Non-Call leading to his first technical foul
On Saturday night, in front of the home crowd, Utah Jazz first-year head coach Will Hardy cherry-picked the Portland Trail Blazers. Not his first win – that achievement has long been in the books.
Hardy was called for his first technical foul as a head coach after Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson was hacked on a slam dunk attempt, crashing to the floor with a massive thump. In Hardy’s estimation, he’s surprised the official Tony Brothers didn’t throw him out Jerry Sloan-style.
“Yes, there should have been two [technicals]”, Hardy said after the match. “I should have been kicked out. That game was disgusting. I’m glad Jordan isn’t hurt.”
Hardy didn’t try to throw shade at Portland’s Jabari Walker and Jusuf Nurkic. There didn’t seem to be anything obvious in the intention. But Clarkson was clearly fouled, and badly, at the end of the third quarter of a highly competitive game.
Brothers’ officiating crew missed the obvious call in a big, bad way. He probably regrets it on further review, but sometimes calls are missed in the NBA. Charge it to the game.
“Not that it was a dirty play,” Hardy continued. “I don’t think there was any intent for it to be dirty, but when a guy goes up in the air and lands on his back for a dunk, you hope he gets called, but then again, that’s life in the NBA. I have to rethink my Christmas shopping.”
I’m not sure what Hardy’s “Christmas” quip to punctuate his remarks meant, but he was right to be angry and vocal in his criticism of Brothers in the game. It cost the Jazz a technical foul, but it showed the players that their head coach will go to bat for them when the chips are down.
Clarkson was beaten up but was uninjured. It wasn’t his most efficient night, going just 10 of 26 (38.5%) from the field and finishing with 24 points. Lauri Markkanen dropped 21 points, while three other Jazzmen hit double figures.
Utah’s biggest problem was not scoring. It was the team’s soft defense in the first half that caused Portland to hang 40 points on the Jazz in the first frame. The Jazz chipped away at Portland’s scoring somewhat in the second quarter, putting up 29 points to lead 69-60 at halftime.
While the lead changed 14 times and Utah stormed back with a much more physical and intense effort in the second half, the damage was done in the first quarter. Anfernee Simons finished with 45 points, shooting 7 of 12 from three-point range.
Allowing Simons to see so many shots fall early gave him the confidence to maintain his scorer’s rhythm throughout. Portland defeated Utah 116-111.
“Four of his first threes, the guy guarding him was either at the three-point line, or under it,” Hardy said of Simons’ scoring. “He’s a very, very elite scorer and he can really score in bunches. So our pick-up points, getting into the ball, to begin with, wasn’t great. And if you let a big scorer see three or four go in, can you be at his mercy. There were probably five or six shots he did where you just shake hands and say, ‘Hey, man. You’re pretty good.'”
Clarkson had the chance to redeem the Jazz in the closing seconds, but was stripped on an inbound pass. Ball game.
The Jazz learn a lot about themselves and their new head coach. Hardy’s decision-making at the end of the game, specifically choosing not to foul in the final 30 seconds, was questionable, but he’s learning from his own trial-and-error process as a head coach.
Next up, the Jazz will arrange a rematch with Sports IllustratedSportsman of the Year in Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. The Jazz fell to the Warriors on the road on Nov. 25, 129-118.
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