When is a dunk not a dunk in the NBA? When the referees decide it’s not.
That was the case in Tuesday night’s Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs game as All-Star James Harden dunked the ball on a breakaway only to have it incorrectly ruled that it didn’t count.
Now Houston is attempting to get the league to look into the blown call, which they feel will alter the game’s outcome in their favor.
James Harden dunk ruled as a missed dunk?
Harden’s dunk came in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game at AT&T Center in San Antonio. With just under eight minutes remaining, Harden raced down the court on his own and slammed the ball into the hoop.
The ball went down and through the net but also bounced back up and over the rim. That caused the referees to say it was a missed dunk as seen in the highlight below.
This is the craziest "missed" dunk I've ever seen. Crazy, because James Harden didn't miss it. Refs missed the call. Rockets lost in OT. ?pic.twitter.com/uNkD5ez32Z
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) December 4, 2019
Crew chief James Capers told a reporter after the game that Harden’s dunk appeared to pop back up through the net.
“When that happens, that is basket interference,” Capers explained, per ESPN. “To have a successful field goal, it must clear the net. 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.”
Referee James Capers admits they missed the call on James Harden’s dunk, but the Rockets couldn’t challenge because they allowed 30-second window to pass while “protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it.” pic.twitter.com/RuqUzUgMlK
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 4, 2019
Unfortunately, Capers also said that there was a 30-second window in which the call could have been challenged and overturned. That time window passed as the Rockets were protesting the call and attempting to get clarification of it all.
At the time of that blown call, the Rockets held a double-digit lead. However, the Spurs would make a comeback, bringing the game to overtime, and ultimately won it 135-133 in double overtime.
Starters DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes combined for 58 points, while Lonnie Walker IV came off the bench to add a team-high 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting.
Down 22. Never gave up.
Highlights from tonight's comeback victory ? pic.twitter.com/PouEADLoUR
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 4, 2019
Harden finished with 50 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and four steals in the loss. The former MVP also set an NBA record with 24 free throw attempts in a regular-season game without a miss.
Rockets looking for justice from NBA after call
Due to that missed call, the Houston Rockets are now looking for the NBA to step in and take some action. Basically, Houston wants the league to rule that they won the game since that dunk should have counted and technically would have meant they had two more points than San Antonio at the end of regulation.
If not, the other option they are hopeful for is that the league orders the final 7 minutes, 50 seconds of that game be replayed at another date.
Two teams replayed part of a game back on March 8, 2008, as the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat had to sort things out. That was due to the referees incorrectly ruling Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal had fouled out with 51.9 seconds to go in their game four months prior to that.
So the league allowed the two teams to replay the final 51.9 seconds of their game. The Hawks won the first time 117-111, and the second time (for replay purposes), 114-111.
Whether or not the league allows the same sort of game replay in the case of James Harden’s dunk ruled not a dunk remains to be a seen, but it certainly makes for one of the more bizarre blown calls on a highlight play in recent memory.