The Houston Rockets filed a protest last week for the game that they played on Tuesday, December 3, on the road against the San Antonio Spurs. In that game, a James Harden dunk attempt in the fourth quarter that went through the hoop was incorrectly called a miss by the referees, and the Rockets went on to lose the game 135-133 in double-overtime. Houston believed that the blown call and the two points that were not awarded led directly to the team’s eventual loss.
On Monday, the NBA denied Houston’s protest and announced that the game’s final would remain as it is currently graded as a San Antonio win. Commissioner Adam Silver went on to explain the league’s reasoning behind denying the Rockets’ request.
The Houston Rockets wanted to replay the game from the missed call
With his Rockets leading 102-89 with under eight minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, James Harden stole a pass and had a clean breakaway to the hoop. Harden slammed the ball home with a slam dunk with 7:50 left on the clock, but it got caught in the netting and flipped back up over the rim, failing to go through the hoop a second time and instead bouncing off of the rim and out of bounds.
What happened to the ball after it went through the netting was irrelevant; it went through both the rim and the netting and should have been graded as a good basket. But the refs missed the call, incorrectly determining that the ball had not cleared the netting before popping out and therefore it was a miss. As the referees argued about it amongst themselves, the 30-second window for Mike D’Antoni to challenge the play passed.
So instead of being up 104-89, the Rockets remained in the lead by a score of 102-89. They went on to blow that lead by getting outscored 26-13 for the rest of regulation to force overtime, where they eventually lost.
In their protest, the Rockets requested that the game be replayed from the 7:50 mark with the basket correctly awarded.
Adam Silver believes Houston had plenty of time to recover
The NBA did not deny that the referees had made a mistake in failing to award James Harden with a good basket. They did, however, disagree that a replaying of the final seven minutes and 50 seconds of regulation was in order.
Adam Silver determined that the Rockets had sufficient time to overcome the officiating error “during the remainder of the fourth quarter and two subsequent overtime periods, and thus the extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest was not warranted.”
Blown calls are a part of the game
Unfortunately, officiating is far from an exact science. Mistakes are made in every game, and they are just as likely to go for your team as they are to go against it.
This was a particularly egregious error, and one that the referees of the game have been correctly reprimanded for. But while the call may have affected the outcome of the game, it doesn’t change the fact that the Rockets had a 13-point lead with under eight minutes left to play. They blew the game of their own accord.
“We had plenty of chances to win the game,” Rockets guard Austin Rivers said. “So whether that went in or went out, the Spurs did a great job of continuing to play basketball and we did a bad job of not finishing the game.”