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James Harden got jobbed and now the Spurs might get jobbed, too

Harden dunked a ball so hard the refs took the points away on a botched call. The Rockets lost by two. Now a replay might be in order, which totally disadvantages San Antonio after a 22-point comeback.

NBA: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Rockets vs. Spurs was absolutely bizarre. San Antonio won in double overtime after Lonnie Walker IV, persona non grata in Gregg Popovich’s rotation to date, exploded down the stretch to carry the Spurs on a 22-point comeback. Walker scored 28 to lead the Spurs, and Bryn Forbes added an efficient 25.

On the other side, the Rockets indeed gave up a 22-point lead to a struggling Spurs team without LaMarcus Aldridge. James Harden got 50* on 11* of 38 shooting while Russell Westbrook had 19 on 7 of 30 shooting, which is legitimately impressive. In fact, Austin Rivers also scored 19 points. Westbrook’s 19 came on 30 field goal attempts and four free throws, so 32 shot attempts. Rivers got his 19 on eight FGAs and two FTAs, or nine shot attempts ... 23 fewer that RWB. Wow.

But all anyone will really talk about is the botched call on a fourth quarter breakaway dunk from Harden.

With 7:50 left in regulation and the Rockets up 13, Harden got out in transition and hammered home a dunk. Only he hammered it so hard and with such apparent English that the ball, after clearly going through the hoop, swerved back onto the rim and rolled off. After a moment of confusion, the officials whistled the play dead. But they didn’t review the play (Mike D’Antoni was apparently too hoppin’ mad to officially challenge it) and called it a miss.

The Spurs went on to tie the game at the end of regulation and eventually win by two points some 17 minutes 50 seconds of game time later.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reports that the Rockets hope the NBA will award Houston the win (LOL — they will not) or order the final 7:50 of regulation to be replayed (possible).

I am totally sympathetic to the Rockets in the sense that they got jobbed out of a bucket that ended up being material. On the other hand, they still led by 13 with 7:50 to go and their two stars missed a combined 49 of their 68 field-goal attempts (if we count Harden’s missed dunk as a make) and gave up 34 in the fourth quarter to a Spurs team led by Walker IV and Forbes. Just in the 7:47 of regulation after the botched call, Harden and Westbrook went a combined 2-12. The dunk mattered ... but also the Rockets totally collapsed, and we can’t just blink that away.

The NBA obviously can’t give Houston the win outright, and the Rockets source who suggested that to MacMahon should be embarrassed for pretending s/he believes that’s remotely plausible. But a replay could be in order, which is pretty amazing considering it would nullify Walker’s breakout performance (he scored 23 of his 28 points after the botched dunk) and it would deeply benefit the Rockets, since they would be getting a second crack at holding off the Walker-Forbes two-headed beast. Look at it this way: we wouldn’t be talking about replays if the Rockets would have won anyway, which they nearly did. That they didn’t raises the specter of protest and replay, which means Houston gets another try at holding off the Spurs. That’s quite unfair to San Antonio.

There is no fair solution here, really. The refs made an honest mistake, there was no method by which they could review the botched call in real-time, the Rockets couldn’t pull together to get the win anyway, and there are nothing but imperfect solutions to try to fix it. A replay of the final 7:50 of regulation is probably the right call, despite its unfairness to San Antonio. Time to memory hole the night Lonnie Walker IV exploded onto the scene.


Pistons 127, Cavaliers 94
Magic 127, Wizards 120
Heat 121, Raptors 110 (OT)
Mavericks 118, Pelicans 97
Rockets 133, Spurs 135 (2OT)
Lakers 105, Nuggets 96
Blazers 97, Clippers 117


All times ET. Games on League Pass unless otherwise noted.

Warriors at Hornets, 7 p.m.
Bucks at Pistons, 7 p.m.
Suns at Magic, 7 p.m.
Nets at Hawks, 7:30 p.m.
Heat at Celtics, 7:30 p.m.
Grizzlies at Bulls, 8 p.m.
Pacers at Thunder, 8 p.m.
Wolves at Mavericks, 8:30 p.m.
Lakers at Jazz, 9 p.m., NBA TV
Kings at Blazers, 10 p.m.


No links on Wednesday. A double dose is coming on Thursday.

Be excellent to each other.