There are two things by which you never want an NBA playoff game decided: a bad call by the referees or a dumb technology problem.
Luckily, the shot clock malfunction that hindered the second half of Saturday’s Eastern Conference playoff game between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors didn’t end up being a huge factor—although it easily could’ve been. (The Nets wound up winning, 94-87.)
Update, April 21, 8:30 p.m.: Gemme Karstens-Smith of the Toronto Star is now reporting the Raptors have taken full responsibility for Saturday's malfunction:
In what has become a tiring saga of “our fault, their fault” the Raptors now accept responsibility for both the game and 24-second shot clock failing to operate for the final quarter-and-a-half of Saturday’s series opener...That early speculation was based on where ESPN was set up during the game, a Raptors official said. But on review, it wasn’t the network’s fault after all.
It was originally reported byJeff Zillgitt of USA Today that ESPN, not the Air Canada Centre infrastructure, had been to blame:
ESPN caused the shot clocks to malfunction during Game 1 Saturday between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre when it tried to solve an internal issue by plugging into the same power source for the shot clocks, causing the power source to fry, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the cause of the malfunction.
All things considered, how the sideline crew handled the ordeal—calling out when 10 seconds remained as well as every second from “5” until “Horn!”—was pretty impressive.
"It was definitely tough because you're used to looking up to see the time," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said after the game (via ESPN.com). "We just tried to help each other out when the announcer called down from 10 seconds."
Luckily, the folks at Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, the parent company of both the Raptors and the team’s arena, assured fans that there’s no chance of the malfunction happening again:
We experienced a signal path failure midway through the third quarter of today's game. Our backup system for the temporary shot clocks relied on the same source. New cables will be run tonight and tomorrow to ensure no issues arise on Tuesday and the NBA will inspect both the fixed and backup systems before Game 2.
So that’s good. We’d hate to see what could easily be a six or seven-game series—Brooklyn’s Game 1 win notwithstanding—tarnished by a silly technological malfunction.
Like that time you accidentally tucked your shirt through the pants zipper at your mother-in-law’s Easter dinner, let us never speak of this again.