The NBA implemented a new rule this season that allows coaches to challenge a ref’s call. There’s no red flag thrown on the court like what’s seen in the NFL and coaches are only limited to one challenge, unless the first is approved, but it’s still going to make a difference in how the ball moves up and down the boards.
The Toronto Raptors have now made history as the first NBA team to challenge a call, but things didn’t go exactly the way coach Nick Nurse had planned, and he was forced to dress his wounds after being denied.
It only took less than one quarter for the first NBA challenge to be seen. Nurse called it with 2:44 left on the clock when his team was going up against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, upset with the way a ref called an offensive foul against Raptors forward Norman Powell.
As soon as he challenged the ref’s decision, officials trotted off to the monitors to see what all the fuss was about. They saw Powell going into the lane and then planting himself against Josh Hart’s face as he was going up for a shot. The officials double-checked the monitor to make sure they saw everything correctly before handing Nurse the bad news.
The right to challenge is very simple and doesn’t offer a lot of options. Nurse pointed this out after the game.
“I haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about it,” Nurse said. “I’m not real comfortable with when I can and can’t use it, and what I can and can’t use it for. I know it’s pretty simple; there’s only a few things you can use it for. I thought the guy, what I saw, I thought the guy hit him first as Norm went in there. I could’ve swore I saw that. And I watched the replay, and I swore I saw it again. But I must’ve really, be really wrong when they watch it on video and the call stands. But the good news is, the entire league is 0-for-all on the coach’s challenge right now.”
The Pelicans didn’t want Nurse to have all the fun during the game, so head coach Alvin Gentry decided to issue his own challenge. His issue, though, was more vital because it came with just under three minutes left in the contest when the winner was still up in the air. Gentry challenged a call after Kenrich Williams was hit with a loose-ball foul against the Raptors Serge Ibaka. The ref said that Williams had pulled on Ibaka’s shorts as they moved up the court.
Gentry stopped the clock and asked for a review, but the outcome wasn’t what he had hoped. He lost the challenge, which also resulted in Ibaka going for a couple of free throws since the foul moved the Pelicans into a penalty.
The challenge rules are still being formulated by the NBA – they’re currently only in an experimental phase. Similar rules were introduced to the G League over the past two years, but the NBA’s version only allows one call per game based on only certain violations – a called personal foul charged to its own team; a called out-of-bounds violation; or a called goaltending or basket interference violation.
The Pelicans needed the challenge to go their way to give them an edge in what was, at the time, a very close game. As the clock expired, the game was left at a tie, forcing the teams into overtime and no new challenges. When time finally expired, the Raptors would take the victory, downing the Pelicans 130-122.