Sunday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets was a matchup of the NBA’s Eastern and Western conference leaders, as well as top MVP contenders Jayson Tatum and Nikola Jokic. But the showdown was overshadowed by a bent rim that caused a delay of about 35 minutes.
With 6:43 left in the game, a crew struggled to re-level the rim after a powerful dunk by Boston’s Robert Williams III. It took six workers, two ladders, a level, phone calls and eventually a crew member taking the rim off the backboard before it was fixed — which Celtics guard Jaylen Brown disputed.
“There was no communication. They spent all that time trying to fix it, but when we came back, it still looked like it wasn’t even level, in my opinion. So we just wasted all that time,” Brown said after Boston’s 123-111 loss.
“That has an effect on the game. That’s how injuries and stuff happen. Luckily that didn’t [happen], but that wasn’t good. That whole process was handled poorly, in my opinion, and that had an effect as well. But luckily nobody got hurt.”
Players were allowed a brief warmup before play resumed, and then the Nuggets pulled away.
“Man, that was crazy,” Denver guard Bones Hyland said of the delay. “I’ve never been in a game with that before. We just tried to stay loose and finish the game out.”
Williams said he had never done such a thing.
“I didn’t know I did it until my teammates started blaming me,” he said.
Jokic had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for the Nuggets, who led by as many as 18 points. He hit 10 of 13 shots from the field and all eight free throws in his second straight triple-double and ninth of the season. Bruce Brown added 21 points for the Nuggets, who shot 57% from the floor and made 17 of 30 3-pointers.
“He’s my MVP. He should be the league’s MVP three times in a row,” Bruce Brown said of Jokic. “He’s doing everything for us. Without Jok, I don’t know where we’d be.”
Denver won for the 10th time in 12 games, snapped a six-game skid against Boston and opened a one-game lead in the West.
Jaylen Brown scored 30 points and Tatum shook off a slow start to add 25 for Boston, which shot just 9-of-33 from 3-point range in the opener of a four-game trip. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Celtics, whose lead in the East was sliced to 1 1/2 games.
A large number of Celtics fans started chanting, “MVP! MVP!” when Tatum went to the foul line late in the second quarter. Nuggets fans loudly returned the favor moments later with their own MVP chant for Jokic when he went to the line.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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