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James Harden's 'non-dunk' should have been ruled successful, says crew chief James Capers

Harden's 50-point performance in vain as Spurs rally from 16 points down beat Rockets in double-overtime thriller

Wednesday 4 December 2019 10:05, UK

James Harden rises to ram home a dunk that was ruled out in confusing circumstances 0:18
James Harden was incorrectly denied a dunk basket against the San Antonio Spurs after the ball got caught in the net and appeared to spin out

NBA crew chief James Capers admitted James Harden's disputed dunk in the Houston Rockets' double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs should have been ruled a successful field goal. 

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The bizarre moment came with 7:53 remaining in the fourth quarter with Houston leading 102-89.

Harden jumped a passing lane to steal possession and dribbled upcourt for an uncontested dunk. As he rammed the ball home with his left hand, it became caught in the net before spinning upwards, bouncing on the rim and dropping to the floor.

James Harden reacts after being fouled during Houston's double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs 2:14
James Harden's breakaway dunk was ruled out by game officials in confusing circumstances during the Rockets' double-overtime loss to the Spurs

Officials ruled the ball didn't clear the cylinder, but crew chief Capers said the officials had made a mistake.

Capers said: "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.

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"We have since 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."

Capers said although the play was a "reviewable matter", the Rockets did not ask for a review within the 30-second window in which coaches can challenge calls, during which time they were arguing and asking for clarification.

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The botched call crushed Houston's momentum.

"We just stopped playing and they gained confidence," Harden said.

James Harden attacks the basket against the San Antonio Spurs 2:04
James Harden scored 50 points but could not prevent the Houston Rockets from falling to a double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs

Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV helped make sure of that, tallying a career-high 28 points to help San Antonio overcome Harden's 50-point performance and rally to a 135-133 victory in double overtime.

"It was confidence," Walker said. "My team-mates kept me going, and once I started feeling it, I'm just going to let it go and play my game. I know what I can and cannot do. I'm just happy that we played team ball and we got this win."

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Harden's misery was compounded in the second extra session as he was whistle for two charging fouls. The second came against DeMar DeRozan with 0.8 seconds remaining, sealing San Antonio's victory.

Jakob Poeltl 0:19
Jakob Poeltl rises above James Harden and denies the Houston Rockets a game winning basket.

At the end of regulation, he also had a potential game-winning lay-up swatted into the stands by Spurs big man Jakob Poeltl, a play that ensured the game would go to overtime.

After the game, ESPN reporter Tim MacMahon reported on Twitter the Rockets are optimistic the NBA will take action regarding Harden's non-dunk and the team are prepared to file a protest if no action is taken.

Speaking on TNT's Inside the NBA after the game, analyst Charles Barkley said: "All [the officials] had to do was say, 'sorry, we missed a call.'

"Secondly, you've got to give somebody longer than 30 seconds to [ask officials to] review something.

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"It's just a bad call. They just missed it."

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