In the fourth quarter of a game that went off the rails down the stretch and throughout two overtimes, referees missed a call on a breakaway dunk by Rockets star James Harden because the ball went back onto the rim after passing through the net.
By the time everybody on the court had a grasp of what transpired, it was too late for the Rockets to challenge what would’ve been a reviewable play.
“The ball went in,” Harden said postgame, recalling what he told the officials in the play’s aftermath. He shook his head when asked if the referees offered an explanation for their call.
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Crew chief James Capers told reporters the ball appeared to “pop back up through the net,” which would have been basket interference and nullified the bucket.
“He [actually] 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,” Capers said. “It is a reviewable matter, but you have a window of 30 seconds to challenge the play … and while they were protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it, that window passed.”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, sounding somewhat exasperated, said he heard multiple versions of events from the referees.
At the time, Houston led the Spurs 102-89 with less than eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Rockets led until the final minute, when San Antonio erased a six-point deficit to force overtime. There were exciting sequences at the end of each of the overtime periods, but a Harden offensive foul with less than a second left in the second OT sealed a disastrous loss for Houston.