DENVER — The rim was bent, no one seemed to know how to fix it, and for 35 minutes Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets players struggled to keep warm in a bizarre scene Sunday night that infuriated Celtics star Jaylen Brown made.
Boston’s Robert Williams III appeared to be the culprit after hanging on the edge after a thunderous dunk at 8:06 in the fourth quarter. Soon after, that rim tilted a little 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 an NBA Conference Leaders matchup, officials called on the arena crew to level the margin. First, a few workers came out with a ladder and some tools, including a spirit level. But there were problems. A crew member picked up his phone. Another ladder and more crew members emerged.
It is believed that this dunk by Robert Williams caused the rim to buckle. USA TODAY Sports
Nuggets coach Michael Malone called the situation “a buzzkill.”
“There’s a joke in there. How many people does it take to fix a rim in an NBA game?” said Malone.
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 chose to do so sit alone near the opposite free-throw line.
The Nuggets attempted to entertain audiences 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 a melody.
At one point, a close-up appeared on the video board of a crew member with a spirit level on top of the rim. It turned out to still be crooked. The crowd booed as if a referee had just made a bad decision against the Nuggets.
“I wish they would have changed the rim right away,” Malone said.
Instead, the delay stretched to 20 minutes. A worker then took the edge off the back wall to look at it. Players jumped up and down to keep warm.
“They said that if it came at a certain time, there would be a warm-up,” said caretaker Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla.
The delay was beginning to annoy Brown.
“There was no communication,” he said.
Finally a worker set the rim back up and it appeared to be level. The crowd roared as teams raced through layup lines midway through the fourth quarter to try and break free.
Workers try to fix the broken rim at Nuggets-Celtics gameAP
Play soon resumed, but Brown was unsure if the problem was resolved.
“They spent the whole time fixing it, but when we came back, I think it still looked like it wasn’t even level,” Brown said. “So we wasted all that time.”
Jokic had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists as the Nuggets held on to a 123-111 win in a game that ended up lasting 2 hours and 40 minutes.
“It was about doing business,” said Gordon, who scored 18 points.
Brown finished with 30 points for Boston.
“That’s how injuries happen and stuff like that,” he said. “This whole process was poorly managed, I think, and that had an impact. But fortunately no one was hurt.”