The Toronto Raptors have already lost 27 games this season, but Saturday’s loss to the Boston Celtics was unique even in a disappointing season. In the last 14.1 seconds, Boston needed two jump balls and, perhaps more importantly, two odd-numbered timeouts to get past Toronto for the win.
Things escalated with just 14.1 seconds left. Boston, in a 106–104 lead, had just rebounded off a miss by Gary Trent Jr. and was trying to get the ball out of bounds to start the clock and provoke a foul. Instead, a poor pass from Payton Pritchard gave Toronto possession with a clear numerical advantage. But instead of taking advantage, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called a timeout.
To put it mildly, it was a dubious call. Pritchard was on the ground and the four Raptors were behind the field line. In all likelihood, they would have had a good look at the rim. Instead, they played a timeout that resulted in Al Horford blocking Pascal Siakam. After that, a controversial ball was announced, but the nurse did not agree with the challenge. He took time out to challenge the decision, but there was no revision.
After the game, the nurse explained what had happened. “My thought process was to challenge him,” he said. explained to reporters. “It didn’t feel like a jump ball to me, it looked like the ball was rebounded and Pascal got it back. I asked the referee if I could contest it, he said “If you take a time out, you can.” so I said, “OK, time out.” And then Ed Malloy came up and said, “You can’t challenge the jump ball,” so I said, “OK, no timeout.” Then the original referee, Michael Smith, said, “You’re taking a time-out, you called it yourself.”
Before the time-out was called, the nurse was given incorrect information, but at the same time, he, as a coach, is responsible for knowing the rules. The fact that he didn’t come back haunted him. A second jump shot 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 fouled before an inbounds pass that turned two likely free throws into Raptors possession. However, due to the time-outs spent, Nurse was unable to move the ball forward or formalize the play. Without a timeout, the Raptors failed to take advantage of their luck and flipped the ball without a hit.
Boston fled 106-104, and the Raptors, in a season full of heartbreaking defeats, may have just suffered the worst of them.