The Houston Rockets filed a protest with the NBA over the James Harden dunk that was not counted for two points in the Rockets’ 135-133 double overtime loss to San Antonio on Tuesday.
Both teams “have five days to file with (Commissioner Adam Silver) such evidence as he may desire bearing upon the issue. Silver will rule on the protest within five days after receiving evidence,” according to the NBA’s constitution and by-laws.
The Rockets also had to pay a $10,000 protest fee that is refundable if the Rockets win the protest.
In Tuesday’s game, Harden finished a breakaway dunk that would’ve given the Rockets a 104-89 lead with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter. However, the ball went through the net with such force it spun out and back over the rim, giving the appearance the ball didn’t go all the way through the net.
Referees ruled that it didn’t go through and called basket interference. and while trying to figure out what happened, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni missed his 30-second window to issue a coach’s challenge, according to the referee James Capers who was the crew chief in the game.
After the game, Capers acknowledged the dunk should have counted for two points.
A key phrase to remember in a protested NBA game is “misapplication of rules.” The protesting team must convince Silver rules were misapplied. In a very basic sense, the Rockets could argue that one of the rules of the game is that when the ball goes through the net, it’s either one, two or three points and thus the rules weren’t applied. The Spurs could argue it was a judgement call, which is not grounds for a successful protest. The Rockets could argue that other rules weren’t applied appropriately, too.
Silver will also take into account whether the play in question had a clear impact on the game.
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It is rare that the NBA grants a protests. According to USA TODAY research, the league has granted a protest just three times – 1978-79 season between Nets and Sixers; 1982-83 between Lakers and Spurs and 2007-08 between Hawks and Heat.
Those games were replayed from the point of contention, including the final quarter and a half of the Nets-Sixers game that was one the weirdest games in NBA history. Between the original game and the protested replay, three players were traded to the other team and ended up on the final box score for both teams.
The previous protest filed by Sacramento in a loss to Memphis in 2014 was denied by Silver. Just one protest out of 14 filed has been granted since 1986. Former Commissioner David Stern in 2014 told USA TODAY Sports, “Given the high standard of proof that a team must meet to have a protest sustained, I think our teams just decided that filing a likely losing protest was not a good use of time and resources.”