Report: Rockets to Protest Loss to Spurs After Missed James Harden Dunk Call

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 5, 2019

SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 3: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets dunks the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on December 3, 2019 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
Logan Riely/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets reportedly will be protesting their 135-133 double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, citing a "misapplication of rules."

The protest originates from Rockets guard James Harden's dunk attempt with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter and his team up 13 points. The 2017-18 NBA MVP went on a one-man fast break and threw the ball down for two, but the ball appeared to potentially pop back up through the net and bounce on the rim. Officials deemed the basket no good.

However, replays showed that the basket was, in fact, good, and the Rockets were unable to challenge the play because the time window for them to do so had passed.

NBA referee James Capers explained his crew's decision on the play to a pool reporter postgame, per

"Alright, when the play happened [James] Harden goes in for a dunk, and then the ball appears to us 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. [...]

"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."

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The missed call proved costly with the two teams going to extra sessions before the Spurs' eventual win.

Feigen explained the mechanics behind the Rockets' protest.

"Having been told time expired to challenge on Tuesday, the Rockets will file their appeal on Thursday within the 48 hours required to protest," Feigen wrote. "Both teams have up to five days to provide relevant evidence. Commissioner Adam Silver has up to five days after receiving that evidence to issue a ruling."

Feigen also noted that protests have proven successful in the past, but only two successful protests have been carried out since 1982.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN explained more of the Rockets' protest rationale:

"Rockets' hope is that final 7:50 will be replayed with Houston up by 15 points. Rockets have no expectation that NBA would award them a win based on Houston actually outscoring Spurs in regulation, which was a possibility raised by a Rockets source in wake of the loss."

We'll see if anything comes of the protest, but as of now, the Rockets are 13-7 and fifth in the Western Conference.

If early season results are any indication, the West is shaping up to be a close four- or five-team race for the No. 2 seed behind the Los Angeles Lakers, with four franchises within two games of each other from No. 2 to No. 5. Therefore, it's understandable that the Rockets are at least making an effort here to try to turn a loss into a win, even if history suggests that the protest is unlikely to be successful.

As for now, the Rockets will visit the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. The 8-14 Spurs will host the Sacramento Kings on Friday.