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How Robert Williams caused a 40-minute delay in Celtics-Nuggets game

The big man was oblivious to the issue he caused after a monstrous dunk.

Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

On Sunday night, the game between the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets tipped off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, but it didn’t end until a little before 11:00. For those counting at home, that’s nearly three hours for a game that should take a little over two (including halftime and timeouts).

The culprit of the issue: a 40-minute stoppage caused by Robert Williams.

With 8:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, Williams threw down an emphatic alley-oop slam from Jaylen Brown. He hung on the rim for a minute before getting back on defense, but it was that decision to hang there that may have cost everyone at Ball Arena some beauty sleep.

Denver called a timeout with 6:43 remaining, and that’s when the issue was diagnosed. The rim was crooked. In fact, it was so uneven the Nuggets in-arena crew brought out multiple ladders, a tiny level (that stole the show of both TV broadcasts), and eventually, an entirely new rim.

Meanwhile, Williams was oblivious to the entire situation. After the game, he revealed that he didn’t even know he caused the issue until his teammates started blaming him.

The entire repair took 40 minutes, meaning the players were left standing around. Marcus Smart sat at the opposite free-throw line, Grant Williams chatted with the referees and an injured Jamal Murray, and the Nuggets broadcast even decided to interview Timofey Mozgov in the crowd.

If an interview with Mozgov is the solution to erasing boredom, that’s a sign that a situation is taking too long. Also - what about the situation even remotely resembled breakfast?

By the time the (new) rim was ready to go, the Celtics and Nuggets had to warm up again. If a viewer had turned on the TV, they would have thought they were watching the pregame show. Head coach Joe Mazzulla said that they were told they would get time to warm up again if the delay took a certain amount of time.

“Yeah, the rim was crooked. And then they told us, if it got to a certain amount of time, there would be a re-warmup period. And so I guess once we got to the time they just asked us how many minutes we thought we needed.”

At the time of the delay, the Celtics were attempting to claw back from an 18-point hole. Denver had been firing on all cylinders, and Boston couldn’t get anything to drop. Bones Hyland had scored nine of his 17 points in the few minutes leading up to the rim malfunction.

But while Mazzulla was concerned with getting his team back in the right headspace, he was more worried about the safety of his players.

“Just more for the safety of the guys. I was asking our staff, you know, what you do in a situation like that, as far as making sure the guys are still healthy. We still want to go out there and compete. I think it was a 13-point game or something like that with six [minutes] to go. But I also wanted to make sure we put our guys in the right position.”

Obviously, a 40-minute delay completely takes away from the rhythm of the game. Hyland’s hot streak ended after the rim was replaced, as he went scoreless for the remainder of the game. And while the Celtics shot slightly better from the field post-rim scandal, they still fell short against a red-hot Nuggets squad.

Brown was frustrated with the issue, but more specifically, he was unhappy with how it was handled. He said that the players were left in the dark and that situations like that are how players can get hurt.

“Nah, there was no communication. Obviously, the rim got, I guess, a little bit leveled to the left or whatever. And they spent all that time to try and fix it, but when we came back, it still looked like it wasn’t even level, in my opinion. So it was like, we just wasted all that time. [That] has an effect on the game. That’s how injuries and stuff happen. Luckily, it didn’t. But you know, that wasn’t good. The whole process was handled poorly, in my opinion, and that had an effect on the game as well. But luckily, nobody got hurt.”

Boston’s poor shooting night and lack of defensive effort are enough reasons to put that game behind them, but the Williams-induced second halftime was the time-wasting cherry on top.

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