NBA denies Rockets' protest calling for 'extraordinary remedy' to James Harden dunk error

The NBA has denied the Houston Rockets’ protest of last week’s game against the San Antonio Spurs that saw officials incorrectly rule that a made dunk by James Harden was not a basket.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni requested a coach’s challenge to review the play, but was told by officials that too much time had elapsed by the time he made the request.

NBA: ‘Extraordinary remedy ... not warranted’

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In the statement announcing the denial of the protest on Monday, commissioner Adam Silver agreed that officials misapplied rules surrounding the coach’s challenge, but that the Rockets “had sufficient time to overcome the error” in the double-overtime loss and that the “extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest was not warranted.”

The NBA has disciplined referees James Capers Jr., Kevin Scott and John Butler for how they handled the situation. What that discipline consists of is not clear.

Officials doubled down on mistake

The play in question occurred with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter of last Tuesday’s game against the Spurs. Harden’s transition dunk went through the net, but the ball’s momentum and the net propelled it back over the basket, where it rolled off the rim, giving the appearance to some that it didn’t clear the net.

The Rockets led, 102-89 at the time of the play. A correct call of a made basket would have extended their lead to 104-89. San Antonio would go on to stage a comeback in a 135-133 double overtime victory.

The Rockets called a timeout as officials conferred to discuss the play. Officials then ruled basket interference, incorrectly assessing that the ball didn’t clear the net.

The Rockets then requested a coach’s challenge, which officials denied, explaining that the 30-second time limit to request a challenge from the start of a timeout had passed.

The NBA acknowledged that refs got the call and rules around the coach's challenge wrong, but still denied Houston's protest. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
The NBA acknowledged that refs got the call and rules around the coach's challenge wrong, but still denied Houston's protest. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Capers, the crew chief in the game, admitted that officials got the call wrong in a postgame interview but provided the same explanation that the 30-second time limit didn’t allow them to grant the coach’s challenge.

NBA: Officials got coach’s challenge explanation wrong too

In its announcement on Monday, the NBA explained that Capers got it wrong on the coach’s challenge front.

“The 30-second time limit for coach’s challenges only applies when the challenge arises during a mandatory timeout or a timeout called by the opposing team. Because Houston called the timeout in this case, it was entitled to challenge the basket interference call upon being informed of it by game officials.”

The Rockets reportedly hoped that the NBA would allow for the final 7:50 of the game to be replayed in light of the multiple officiating errors. Silver made clear in the NBA’s statement that the league had no interest in taking that drastic step to correct those errors.

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