In the fourth quarter of a game that went off the rails under the shade and into two overtime, the referees threw a call to a dunk cut by Rockets star James Harden as the ball went back to the rim after passing through the net.
By the time everyone on the pitch had an understanding of what happened, it was too late for the Rockets to question what a revised game would be.
“The ball went,” Harden said postgame, recalling what he said to officials after the game. He shook his head when asked if the referees offered an explanation for their call.
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Crew leader James Capers told reporters that the ball appeared to “pop up behind the net”, which would interfere with the basket and leave the bucket.
“He [basically] threw it so hard that the net was brought back to the brink a second time, so he actually found the net and should have been a successful target in the field,” Capers said. “It’s an issue that can be revised, but you have a 30-second window to challenge the project … and while they were protesting the call, trying to clear it, the window went through.”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, sounding a little disdainful, said he had heard many versions of events from referees.
At that time, Houston led the Spurs 102-89 with less than eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Rockets led until the last minute, when San Antonio erased a six-point deficit to force overtime. There were exciting sequels at the end of each overtime period, but an aggressive Harden foul with less than a second left in the second OT sealed a devastating loss to Houston.