The Toronto Raptors have lost 27 games already this season, but Saturday’s defeat at the hands of the Boston Celtics was unique even in a season full of disappointment. In the final 14.1 seconds, Boston needed two jump balls, and perhaps more importantly, two odd timeout calls, to escape Toronto with a victory.
Things heated up with only 14.1 seconds remaining. Boston, leading 106-104, had just rebounded a Gary Trent Jr. miss and was attempting to get the ball beyond the half-court mark so that it could start running out the clock and force a foul. Instead, a poor Payton Pritchard pass gave Toronto possession with an obvious advantage in terms of numbers. But rather than take advantage, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called timeout.
It was a questionable call, to say the least. Pritchard was on the ground and four Raptors were behind the half-court line. In all likelihood, they would have gotten a good look at the rim. Instead, they ran a play off of the timeout that resulted in Al Horford blocking Pascal Siakam. A jump-ball was called in the aftermath, but Nurse disagreed with the call. He took a timeout to challenge the ruling, but no review came.
After the game, Nurse explained what happened. “My thought process was to challenge it,” he explained to reporters. “It didn’t look like a jump ball to me, it looked like the ball got knocked away and Pascal got it back. I asked the referee if I could challenge it, he said, ‘If you take a timeout you can,’ so I said, ‘OK, timeout.’ And then Ed Malloy came over and said, ‘You can’t challenge a jump ball,’ so I said, ‘OK, no timeout.’ Then the original referee, Michael Smith, said, ‘You’re taking your timeout, you called it.'”
Nurse was given incorrect information before calling his timeout, but at the same time, as a coach, he is responsible for knowing the rules. The fact that he didn’t came back to haunt him. A second jump ball was called after the first, but when the dust settled, Jaylen Brown was fouled with 3.8 seconds left. Toronto was given new life when Grant Williams committed a foul prior to the inbounds pass, which turned two likely free throws into a Raptors possession. However, with his timeouts spent, Nurse couldn’t advance the ball or draw up a play. Without a timeout, the Raptors couldn’t take advantage of their good fortune and turned the ball over without putting up a shot.
Boston escaped with the 106-104…