Harden dunk debacle confounds Rockets

Houston Rockets star James Harden is at the center of an NBA officiating controversy after a dunk that was incorrectly disallowed in the Rockets' double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs (AFP Photo/Sean M. Haffey)
Houston Rockets star James Harden is at the center of an NBA officiating controversy after a dunk that was incorrectly disallowed in the Rockets' double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs (AFP Photo/Sean M. Haffey)

Los Angeles (AFP) - Officials admitted they got it wrong in disallowing a James Harden dunk in Houston's double-overtime loss to San Antonio, but it wasn't clear Wednesday if the NBA would grant the Rockets a replay they reportedly want.

Rockets star Harden soared to the basket and slammed the ball through the hoop so hard that as it left the bottom of the net it spun back toward the rim and bounced off -- leaving flummoxed game officials to rule no basket on the play.

"The ball went in," Harden said after the game -- and officiating crew chief James Capers later said he was right.

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"The ball appears to us to pop back up through the net. When that happens, that is basket interference. To have a successful field goal, it must clear the net," Capers told a pool reporter after the game in explaining how the call was made.

"We have since come in here and looked at the play. He dunked it so hard that the net carried it back over the rim a second time, so in fact it did clear the net and should have been a successful field goal."

Harden's dunk with 7:50 left to play would have given the Rockets a 104-89 lead.

Already slipping when the controversy erupted, the Rockets went on to lose 135-133.

ESPN reported Wednesday that the team would ask the NBA to award the victory to Houston, or else allow a replay from the 7:50 mark at a later date.

If the Rockets do request such action, the NBA could decide the result stands because Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni failed to seek a review of the play within the 30-second window.

- 'Reviewable matter' -

"It is a reviewable matter," Capers said. "But you have a window of 30 seconds to challenge the play during that timeout that he had and while they were protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it, that window passed, so therefore it elapsed and they were not able to do it."

D'Antoni had a different view of events immediately after the game.

"I heard that they said the ball hit James and went back through, so it was a goaltend on James. I challenged that, and I didn’t get a response," D'Antoni said.

"Then another guy said it wasn't a goaltend -- it went out of bounds on us. And I said, 'Well, I challenge that.' Can't do that.

"You know, I don't know, to answer your question. I've got nothing."

D'Antoni didn't blame the Rockets defeat -- after they led by double digits for all but 4:18 of the fourth quarter -- on the error.

"I think we lost (focus) before (Harden's dunk), but obviously that just added to the circumstances," he said.

ESPN said there is precedent for replaying part of a game.

On March 8, 2008 the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks replayed the final 51.9 seconds of a game the Heat had won 117-111 in overtime four months earlier.

It had been determined that the official scorer incorrectly had ruled that Shaquille O'Neal fouled out with 51.9 seconds left, so they replayed the final seconds before their next scheduled game.

The Spurs and Rockets play again on December 16 in Houston.

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