Much of the focus in Saturday’s Raptors-Nets playoff opener was on the malfunctioning shot clock in Toronto, which led to the clock eventually being replaced by a guy with a stopwatch and the P.A. announcer counting down the seconds. That (and general manager Masai Ujuri’s pre-game F-bomb) led to plenty of mockery of the Raptors, but according to an official in their organization, there’s another four-letter culprit to blame: ESPN. From The Canadian Press:
The day after the Raptors were mocked for the debacle, a Raptors official confirmed that an ESPN technician plugged into the same power source for the shot clocks, frying the power system.
The Raptors had to go old-school, relying on announcer Herbie Kuhn to count down the 24 seconds on each possession after the clocks above the baskets died with 5:57 remaining in the third quarter of Toronto’s 94-87 playoff loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
“Let’s just put it this way, they’re not the worldwide leader in electricians,” the Raptors official joked, when reporters probed him for the culprit.
It was a play on ESPN’s slogan: “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
The official later confirmed it was ESPN.
This is certainly a funny moment, but it also perhaps illustrates the difficulties many leagues face when it comes to the playoffs. The postseason often requires national broadcasters to head to buildings they don’t see often, and unfamiliar buildings can definitely lead to situations like this with wrong outlets being used. The Raptors hadn’t made the playoffs since 2007-08, so there wasn’t a lot of postseason experience here, and it’s not like they’re regularly shown on American networks. (Saturday’s game might have been particularly challenging, too, considering that the game was broadcast on TSN in Canada as well as on ESPN; that could have added additional pressure for outlets and other infrastructure.)
In any case, it doesn’t look like the damage is permanent; Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes that the circuits will be fixed and approved by the NBA before Tuesday’s second game. When you add in the other malfunctions at the Air Canada Centre Saturday, though, including the lights going off in the press room during a post-game interview, it seems there are some kinks to work out with postseason basketball in Toronto — and they can’t all be blamed on ESPN.