James Harden's Disallowed Dunk Explained by Referee After Rockets-Spurs

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts to a play during overtime of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, in San Antonio, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. San Antonio won 135-133 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs' 135-133 double overtime win against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday was one of the strangest games of this NBA season, and no moment was more unusual than James Harden's disallowed dunk in the fourth quarter.

It appeared as if the MVP candidate put his team ahead by 15 points with a breakaway dunk, but the ball went through the rim, got whipped up by the net and then bounced off the rim afterward. 

The basket did not count, and NBA Official passed along the explanation referee James Capers gave to pool reporter Mike Monroe of The Athletic describing what the officials saw and why Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni did not challenge:

"All right, when the play happened, [James] Harden goes in for a dunk, and then the ball appears to pop back up through the net. When that happens, that is basket interference. 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. As to could the play have been reviewed. It is a reviewable matter, but you have a window of 30 seconds to challenge the play during that timeout that he had. And while they were protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it, that window passed. So therefore, it elapsed, and they were not able to do it."

Those two points proved costly, as Houston blew its significant lead and ultimately lost in double overtime.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN spoke with a Rockets source who believes the league could go as far as giving the team the win or replaying the final 7:50 after reviewing the play:

Harden scored 50 points but was an ugly 11-of-38 from the field and 4-of-20 from three-point range. He was 24-of-24 from the free-throw line but was called for two charges in the second overtime. The second one came in the final second and helped the Spurs secure the win.

Russell Westbrook was the only other member of the Rockets to attempt more than nine shots, and he finished with a triple-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. However, he was only 7-of-30 from the field.

The two guards dominated the ball and were unable to put San Antonio away in large part because of their shooting woes, although the blown ruling on Harden's dunk attempt didn't help.


B/R senior writer, FS1 analyst, and host of the Bucher & Friends pod, Ric Bucher returns to “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” to play another round of “It’s way too early but…” involving the Toronto Raptors, LeBron vs Kawhi, the Bucks, Ja Morant, Carmelo Anthony, the Chicago Bulls, and the James Harden Russell Westbrook experiment.

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