DENVER — The rim was bent, nobody seemed to know how to fix it and for 35 minutes Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets players struggled to stay warm in a bizarre scene Sunday night that left Celtics star Jaylen Brown fuming.
Boston's Robert Williams III seemed to be the culprit, after he hung on the rim following a thunderous dunk with 8:06 left in the fourth quarter. Soon after, that rim was leaning a bit to the left.
“I didn't know I did it until my teammates started blaming me,” Williams said.
After a timeout with 6:43 left and the Nuggets leading 110-97 in a matchup of NBA conference leaders, officials summoned the arena crew to level the rim. At first, a couple of workers came out with a ladder and some tools, including a level. But there were problems. One crew member got on his phone. Another ladder and more crew members appeared.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone called the situation “a buzzkill.”
“There's a joke in there. How many guys does it take to fix a rim in an NBA game?" Malone said.
As the delay dragged on, players found unique ways to pass the time. Denver's Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon jogged from sideline to sideline. Boston's Marcus Smart decided to sit by himself near the opposite free throw line.
The Nuggets tried to entertain the crowd with games on the big screen and a steady diet of hits from the 1980s and ’90s on the sound system. Boston's Grant Williams started dancing to one tune.
At one point, a closeup appeared on the video board of a crew member with a level on top of the rim. It showed it was still crooked. The crowd booed as if a referee had just made a bad call against the Nuggets.
“I wish they had just changed the rim right away,” Malone said.
Instead, the delay stretched to 20 minutes. A worker then took the rim off the backboard to look at it. Players jumped up and down to try to stay warm.
"They said that if it got to a certain amount of time there would be a re-warm-up period," Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said.
The delay was starting to irk Brown.
“There was no communication,” he said.
Finally, a worker put the rim back up and it appeared it was level. The crowd roared as the teams ran through layup lines in the middle of the fourth quarter to get loose again.
Soon play resumed, but Brown wasn't sure the problem was fixed.
“They spent all that time trying to fix it but when we came back it still looked like it wasn’t even level, in my opinion,” Brown said. “So we just wasted all that time.”
Jokic had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists as the Nuggets held on for a 123-111 win in a game that ended up lasting 2 hours, 40 minutes.
“It was about handling business,” said Gordon, who scored 18 points.
Brown finished with 30 points for Boston.
“That’s how injuries and stuff happen,” he said. “That whole process was handled poorly, in my opinion, and that had an effect as well. But luckily nobody got hurt.”
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