The Brooklyn Nets held off a fourth-quarter run from the Washington Wizards Wednesday night on their way to a 119-118 win, thanks in part to a key late-game defensive intervention by assistant coach David Vanterpool.
Down six with 5:43 left in the game, Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie passed the ball to Kyle Kuzma, who seemed to mishandle the pass and turn the ball over to Nets forward Kessler Edwards. Except Kuzma didn't mishandle anything. On the replay, you can see Vanterpool stick his dang hand into the court to deflect the pass. You can see Dinwiddie and Kuzma point to him immediately. You can even see him spin guiltily away from the court. The refs, though, apparently saw none of this and play continued until Kuzma intentionally fouled on the other end in order to stop play and, presumably, ask the ref if he knows coaches aren't allowed to play defense from the sidelines.
After the game, the Wizards were understandably pretty annoyed. Interim head coach Joseph Blair said his reaction was "utter disbelief."
"I’ve never seen something like that," he said. "I think in a game like this, with the bench conduct being a point of emphasis this year, that it's very hard to swallow [the refs] missing something like that."
Blair continued: "I do understand that, regardless, there's tons of things we could have done better in the game and it should have never came down to us complaining about something like that. But I will say that you know, this is the best league in the world.
We have to be better than that. And nothing against that referee. Quite frankly, I think he's good referee and a really good person. I was just kind of in disbelief. Like I said, I've never seen nothing like that ever. To be standing there as a head coach to try to deal with it at the time was kind of like, 'Oh my gosh, did I really just see that?'"
Kuzma was more blunt.
"That was horseshit," he said in his postgame presser. "I mean, coaches should not be able to stand up. I get it, if it's under two minutes, everybody in league stands up, but I feel like it was 3:50 on the clock, you're standing up, got Steve Nash blocking the ref's view, can't see shit. I mean, I don't know what what else to say. You know, it's very unfortunate, but you just can't live with it. We had opportunity at the end, I missed a shot. Live or die with it, you know, shit happens."
This will be of no solace to the Wizards, who need every win they can get in order to hang on to their spot in the playoffs, but Vanterpool really blew it. Not because he did something underhanded and got away with it, but because he wasted such a devilish and effective trick on a regular-season game against the Wizards. He should have saved that move for the playoffs.