Title: ‘Gotta lead the league in something’: Nobody is using challenges quite like Raptors coach Nick Nurse
Date: January 31, 2020
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Nick Nurse’s use of the coach’s challenge, a tool he’s experimenting with at a league-leading rate.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers refusing to go away in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game, the time was right for Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse to use his challenge.
Pascal Siakam had just been whistled for a charge and, on the tail of a 9-0 Cavaliers run, Nurse was due for a timeout to settle things down. After appearing to non-verbally confer with Kyle Lowry, Nurse twirled his finger in a circle, the international symbol for “whoop-dee-doo, Basil” or “I’d like to challenge that call.”
Nurse lost the challenge, as officials upheld their original call. It didn’t make the use of the challenge wrong, necessarily. It was an incredibly high-leverage point in the game, a potential three-point swing (Siakam would have had an and-one opportunity if Nurse had won) in a two-point game. It also came when Nurse was likely to use the timeout he lost in the process. The cost, effectively, was not having a challenge left in the game’s final 88 seconds.
There aren’t many better windows, on paper, to use the challenge than a three-point swing late in a close game with a foul on your star player. It’s basically the exact scenario you’d envision the challenge being most useful when the rule was introduced. That Nurse found himself using that tool in the highest-impact of moments shouldn’t be surprising. Nobody has more experience with the challenge.