The Houston Rockets blew a 22-point lead to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, eventually losing 135-133 in double overtime. It was a wild game. James Harden scored 50 points, broke an NBA record for the most made free throws without a miss (24-for-24), and Lonnie Walker IV had the breakout game of his career with 28 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter as the Spurs roared back.
But it was a missed call with just under eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter that everyone was, and is, talking about. At the time, the Rockets were leading by 13. Harden picked off a pass at mid-court and sailed in for an uncontested dunk -- only the ball, somehow, went through the net with such force that it swung back up over the front of the rim. It was enough to dupe the officials into thinking the ball never fully went through the net, and they ruled the basket no good.
Have a look:
The refs somehow didn’t count this as a basket for James Harden pic.twitter.com/Ej3Un9QXVx— Bad Sports Refs (@BadSportsRefs) December 4, 2019
Again, you can see the ball clearly goes through the net. What happens is the ball stays stuck in the net, and as the net swings up, it effectively slingshots the ball back up over the front of the rim. This is clearly a good basket, which, as you can see in the tweet below, crew chief James Capers admitted after the game.
Transcript: NBA Referee James Capers Comments to Pool Reporter after Rockets – Spurs game. pic.twitter.com/rVD6HF9Tca— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) December 4, 2019
So here's where this gets interesting. Being that an extra two points clearly would've impacted a game that wound up tied at the end of regulation, the Rockets, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon, are likely to protest the outcome of the game. According to MacMahon, the Rockets are hoping to either be awarded a victory, as the extra two points would have prevented overtime in the first place, or have the final seven minutes and 50 seconds of the game replayed.
Such an outcome would not be unprecedented in NBA history. The Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks were forced to replay the final 51.9 seconds of a 2006 game because it was found after the fact that the referees had miscalculated the number of fouls on Shaquille O'Neal. In the original game, he fouled out, but when the league found that he had actually committed only five fouls, the two sides replayed those last 51.9 seconds four months later, when the two teams were next scheduled to play.
Listen, the Rockets are right here. The basket should've counted. And yes, the game did go into overtime, so those two points are technically the difference between Houston winning and losing. But the league ruling to go back and give the win to Houston seems highly unlikely, as does going back and replaying seven minutes of a game at some point later in the season. You can't recreate the circumstances. And there's no way you can guarantee Houston would've won that game had that basket counted.
It would set a pretty crazy precedent if you could start protesting calls and actually successfully have the outcomes of games changed retroactively. We shall see.