The Houston Rockets were on the wrong end of one of the worst calls of the young NBA season, when a James Harden breakaway dunk was ruled as a miss, despite having gone through the net and looping back up onto the rim where it bounced off.
That missed call occurred while Houston was up 13 on the Spurs and they were not granted a coach’s challenge because they hadn’t triggered the challenge protocol within the 30 second time frame allotted to do so. The Spurs, naturally, found a way to erase the massive deficit in a furious comeback led by second year guard Lonnie Walker IV, tying the game to force overtime and then winning in the OT period.
Houston lodged a formal protest of the game over the blown call, requesting the league either grant them the win or allow the game to be replayed from the time of the miss, at the 7:50 mark of the fourth quarter up 102-89. On Monday, the league made its final decision, with Adam Silver denying the Rockets’ request, noting that while the rule had been misapplied and an error was made by the refs, the Rockets had plenty of time to overcome the error and still win the game.
While agreeing that the referees misapplied the rules, Commissioner Silver determined 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.
The NBA did say they had disciplined all three referees for misapplying the coach’s challenge rule, although the specifics of those punishments are not known. The Rockets should have been allowed to challenge the call after 30 seconds because they were the team calling timeout, and that rule is only in place for when the opposing team calls TO or there’s a mandatory TO taken.
In any case, the Rockets surely won’t be pleased with the outcome, but it’s not all that surprising given how much time was on the clock and the lead they had.