The Toronto Raptors led late Monday in Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors with a chance to secure an NBA championship in a Finals series they led 3-1.
After the Raptors had trailed by as many as 14 and started the quarter in an 84-78 hole, Kawhi Leonard scored 10 straight Toronto points to give his team a 103-97 lead with 3:28 remaining.
Stephen Curry missed a 3-point attempt on the other end. Fred VanVleet secured the rebound and walked the ball past halfcourt as Scotiabank Arena erupted, sensing the first NBA championship in Raptors and Canadian history and the ensuing celebration that would spill out onto the Toronto streets.
Timeout interrupts rally
What do the Raptors do? They called a timeout with 3:05 remaining.
With the Raptors having seized control of the game and lit a fire under a home crowd teeming with energy, head coach Nick Nurse decided it was time to take a break.
Warriors seize control after timeout
After the timeout, Leonard air-balled a turnaround jumper. Klay Thompson responded with a 3-pointer to cut Toronto’s lead in half.
Stephen Curry would respond with another Warriors 3-pointer to tie the game before Thompson completed a 9-0 run with his seventh 3-pointer of the game to take a 106-103 lead that Golden State would not relinquish.
One of the many questions following a game that saw Kevin Durant go down with an Achilles injury was placed at Nurse’s feet.
So why did Nurse call timeout?
“We had two free ones that you lose under the three-minute mark,” Nurse said. “We’d just came across and just decided to give those guys a rest. And we had back-to-back ones there that we would have lost under the three-minute mark and just thought we could use the extra energy push.”
So there you have it. You can’t take ‘em with you.
Nurse appeared to be going by the strategy that unused timeouts are wasted timeouts. Never mind there was no indication the Raptors needed a rest — or that a timeout would simultaneously allow the Warriors to rest too.
This one could hurt
It’s not Nurse’s finest moment that’s seen him at the helm of the greatest season in Raptors history.
If Toronto goes on to win the championship, this will be swept under the rug of sports history. If not, Nurse’s timeout will be a featured player in the list of miscues that led the Raptors to blow a 3-1 NBA Finals lead.
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