Donovan Mitchell apologizes for saying James Harden benefits from officiating

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell walked back comments he made after a Game 4 loss suggesting Houston Rockets counterpart James Harden’s presumptive MVP status is too reliant on referees.

“Obviously he’s the MVP. There’s no doubt about that,” Mitchell told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m pretty sure we’ve all said things in the heat of the moment when you get upset. It was more so just about myself fouling out. You try so hard to fight back and what we did, but I’m definitely upset that it came out that way. I can’t do anything about it. I understand that there are cameras everywhere. I’m getting used to that. Like I said, he is the MVP and rightfully so, but I’m really focused on going out there and seeing what we can do for Game 5 and not really complaining about the calls. That’s not who I am.”

What did Mitchell say about Harden after Game 4?

After losing to the Rockets 100-87 in Utah, falling behind in their first-round series 3-1, Mitchell turned his ire toward Harden within earshot of cameras and reporters as he retreated to the locker room.

The actual quote was a little more colorful.

“If that’s what he needs to win f***ing MVP, f*** it,” Mitchell said in the tunnel after Sunday’s loss.

And the NSFW episode was caught on camera:

Why was Mitchell upset about the officiating?

Mitchell scored 25 points, helping the Jazz trim a 19-point lead to five in the fourth quarter, but he picked up four of his six fouls in the final frame — two of which came against Harden. Harden attempted eight free throws in the game, right around his average (and just one more than Mitchell).

It’s unclear if there was any one play in particular that set Mitchell off, but the most egregious call Harden benefited from on Sunday involved Jazz teammate Dante Exum late in the first quarter:

Mitchell isn’t the first person to suggest Harden benefits from officiating. Everybody from Boston Celtics guard MarcusSmartto Golden State Warriors coach SteveKerr has taken shots veiled or otherwise at the superstar treatment and fancy footwork that help Harden become un-guard-able.

You might also recall that Harden recently smacked the phone of a fan who called him “the worst flopper in the NBA” midway through Utah’s Game 2 victory last week.

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NBA playoffs: The best photos from Round 2
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 01: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after making a three-point basket against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 1, 2018 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 01: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball as Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Toronto Raptors defends in the second half of Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 1, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: Terry Rozier #12 of the Boston Celtics takes a shot against Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers during Game One in Round Two of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 30, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the 76ers 117-101. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: Terry Rozier #12 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after hitting a three point shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter of Game One of Round Two of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 30, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- MAY 3 - Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) dunks as the Toronto Raptors play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA playoffs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. May 3, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 3: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics goes to the basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 06: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz goes to the basket under the defense of James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the second half during Game Four of Round Two of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on May 6, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Rockets beat the Jazz 100-87. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 05: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hits the game winning shot over the outstretched hand of OG Anunoby #3 of the Toronto Raptors to win Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals 105-103 during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 5, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 7: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers gets into an altercation with Terry Rozier #12 of the Boston Celtics as Jayson Tatum #0 and Marcus Morris #13 of the Boston Celtics and Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers try to break them up in the second quarter during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on May 7, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 05: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates his game winning shot with Kevin Love #0 next to Serge Ibaka #9 of the Toronto Raptors during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 5, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
May 7, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) drive for a loose ball during the second quarter in game four of the second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May 5, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) stands on the scorer's table after hitting the final shot to win the game against the Toronto Raptors in game three of the second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 08: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans goes up for a dunk on Quinn Cook #4, Kevon Looney #5, and Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 8, 2018 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 9: Terry Rozier #12 of the Boston Celtics takes a shot over T.J. McConnell #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the 76ers 114-112 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
May 9, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts after scoring against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half in game five of the second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May 8, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) passes the basketball against Golden State Warriors forward David West (3) and guard Shaun Livingston (34) during the first quarter in game five of the second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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So, what now?

Well, for starters, Mitchell is probably going to wait until he gets behind the closed locker room doors before he starts unleashing expletive-laden rants about the NBA’s presumptive MVP. Then, he faces the tall task of stopping Harden in Game 5 in Houston on Tuesday night. Harden is averaging 29.7 points, 7.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game in the playoffs. He’s also drawing 5.8 fouls a night — third among players still remaining in the postseason behind LeBron James and Joel Embiid.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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