On Sunday afternoon, it came on this inconsequential play with the Celtics comfortably ahead of the Knicks. Baseline referee Ashley Moyer-Gleich calls Grant Williams for an and-1 blocking foul, but you can clearly see Julius Randle throw an elbow to clear space. Stevens “wins” the challenge…kinda. Instead of erasing the bucket and assessing Randle an offensive foul, Secaucus awards the two points to the Knicks and just eliminates the defensive foul call on Williams.
For Stevens, that decision was just another in a long line of missed calls that have hurt the Celtics and the regular season hasn’t hit Game #20 yet. During Boston’s five-game road trip out west, two close games were plagued by questionable reviews. In Sacramento, Marcus Smart was called for a loose ball foul on the Kings’ Richaun Holmes that would send Holmes to the line for what would be the game-winning free throws.
Yes, Smart didn’t have to put up that shot after the offensive rebound and yes, his arm hooks Holmes causing him to spin around and hit the deck, but it’s no more egregious than Buddy Hield swiping at the ball when it’s initially in Smart’s hands.
Three nights later in Los Angeles, a momentum-swinging call was not corrected late in the fourth quarter.
Not only does Paul George get away with the offensive push off on Daniel Theis, the review of Jaylen Brown’s ticky tack touch foul on PG-13 doesn’t get reversed. That play would spark a 13-4 run in the final two minutes and the Clippers would close it out in overtime.
According to USA Today’s Jeff Zilgitt, Stevens is among a group of NBA coaches who have actively put the new rule to the test with 8+ challenges in the young season. However, According to Zilgitt, the numbers have favored the watchful eyes of NBA officials and the Replay Center in New Jersey:
Through Monday’s games, coaches have challenged 152 plays and are 63-89, a 41.4% success rate. They are 47-79 on challenging called fouls, 12-7 on out-of-bounds calls and 4-3 on goaltending/basket interference.
By my count, Stevens is a cool 3-for-8 in challenges. In some instances, a win feels like a loss; Stevens has objected to a call and instead of reversing it, the refs have either assigned the foul to another player or met Stevens in some strange middle ground like on Sunday in Madison Square Garden. But as Stevens himself is fond of saying, “water will find its level.”