An obscure NBA rule that is only 2 years old led to the Raptors' controversial timeout in NBA Finals loss

  • Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse called a controversial timeout late in the fourth quarter of Game 5 that seemed to swing momentum to the Golden State Warriors.
  • The timeout came after Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard scored 10 straight points to give Toronto a 6-point lead with just over three minutes left.
  • Out of the timeout, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry led the Warriors on a 9-2 run to end the game and secure the win for Golden State.
  • Nurse was asked about the timeout after the game, and his reasoning stemmed from a relatively new NBA rule that would have meant losing the timeout if he didn’t use it.
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Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse came under fire on Monday night after calling a controversial timeout that seemed to kill his team’s momentum and kickstart the Warriors game-winning run.

After Kawhi Leonard scored 10 straight points for the Raptors, Toronto led the Warriors by six with just over three minutes left in Game 5. Kawhi, along with his teammates, looked dominant, and the arena shook with anticipation of the Raptors’ first title in franchise history.

But rather than ride the momentum,Nurse called a timeout. At the moment, the move was a bit perplexing, but in retrospect, Nurse’s decision looks ghastly, as the Warriors came out of the break to finish the game on a 9-2 run to win and take the series back to Oakland.

Read more: Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry scored 9 points in 95 seconds to save the Warriors season

After the game, Nurse was asked about the decision to call the timeout.

“We had two free ones that you lose under the three-minute mark,” Nurse told reporters. “We just came across and decided to give those guys a rest. We had back-to-back ones there that we would have lost at the three-minute mark, and just felt the guys could use the extra energy push.”

While many fans were still confused as to Nurse’s reasoning, when taking his explanation into account, it’s tough to fault the Raptors coach for his decision.

In 2017, the NBA made a rule change with the goal of making the end of games run with fewer stoppages. Instead of allowing teams to save all of their timeouts for the final stretch and then potentially calling a timeout every possession, teams were limited to just two timeouts during the final three minutes of regulation.

When Nurse referred to “two free ones” that the team had, he’s explaining that he had an extra timeout available to him at that moment that would have been gone a few seconds later as the game crossed the three-minute mark. Rather than lose the timeout for nothing, Nurse made the decision to give his players an extra bit of rest while he had the chance.

Under normal circumstances, Nurse’s decision would have been less divisive, but with the entire city of Toronto feeling like they were mere minutes away from the championship, the move has come under intense scrutiny, especially because it seemed to spark the Warriors comeback that ultimately lost the Raptors the game.

Read more: The Raptors locker room was reportedly prepared for a championship celebration when Kawhi Leonard scored 10 points in 2 minutes in the 4th quarter — and then it all fell apart

Nurse’s decision to call a timeout while his team seemed to have all the momentum necessary to win will still be debated for hours on end as the Finals continue, but it does make a bit more sense when you understand the rule that influenced his thinking.

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