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NBA Denies Rockets' Protest of James Harden's Disallowed Dunk; Refs Disciplined

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2019

MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 18:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets react to a foul call by referee John Goble #30 against the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena on October 18, 2019 in Miami, Florida. 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. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver denied the Houston Rockets' protest regarding their 135-133 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 3, the league announced Monday.

The league explained Silver's decision:

"In the protest, the Rockets argued that the officials misapplied the playing rules by failing to grant a Coach's Challenge in connection with James Harden's fourth quarter dunk, and that this error had a clear impact on the outcome of the game by depriving the team of two points. While agreeing that the referees misapplied the rules, Commissioner Silver determined that the Rockets had sufficient time to overcome the error during the remainder of the fourth quarter and two subsequent overtime periods and thus the extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest was not warranted."

Alykhan Bijani @Rockets_Insider

The NBA has denied the Houston #Rockets protest The three referees have been disciplined https://t.co/LMClXDFNBq

The NBA also disciplined the three referees from the officiating crew "for misapplying the Coach's Challenge rule."

As the Rockets led 102-89 with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter, James Harden threw down a breakaway left-handed jam. The ball came out of the net and bounced up off the rim, however, giving the impression to some he had missed the slam dunk.

Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after the game the referees first ruled that Harden was guilty of goaltending, so D'Antoni said he wanted to challenge the call. Another referee stepped in to say the ball went out of bounds off Harden, a ruling that D'Antoni said again he wished to challenge.

The league said in its statement that Houston should've been granted a Coach's Challenge, which would've shown Harden's basket to be good.

ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported the Rockets were hopeful of either having the final 7:50 replayed or being awarded a win outright.

Houston's frustration was understandable. The referees made a clear mistake, and missing out on what could've been a victory might impact the team's seed in the Western Conference. One game was the difference between the second-seeded Denver Nuggets and fourth-seeded Rockets a season ago.

Still, the odds of the team's appeal being successful were slim. The NBA hasn't replayed a game since 2008, and Silver noted how the Rockets had plenty of time to prevent the Spurs' comeback despite the referee error.