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Should the league take action on the Rockets-Spurs no-call? They have before

No-calls have become something of a problem for the Houston Rockets, but this time, it could go their way. If the league repeats history.

NBA: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs
Dec 3, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni talks with official James Capers (19) about a disputed dunk by James Harden in the second half at the AT&T Center. The basket was not allowed.
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

People say lightning never strikes twice, but when it comes to no-calls and the Houston Rockets, the same simply cannot be said. So if the Rockets have learned anything from the past couple of seasons, then the latest installment of the Houston no-call saga could develop into something quite spectacular and something that hasn’t happened in 11 years.

As we all know (I mean, how can you avoid it?) with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, Rockets’ James Harden stole the ball in mid-court and proceeded to hammer home a very impressive, uncontested dunk.

Simple right? It’s just another explosive play from the league’s leading scorer in a huge game against a rival.

Wrong! For some strange reason unknown to man or woman, Harden’s dunk went through the hoop, exited the net and due to the sheer force that dunked it home, the ball came back over itself at the top of the rim. The crazy thing is, NBA rules state that if the ball goes into the net and comes out without going all the way through the net then it’s classed as ”basket interference” which is a no-basket call. However, on this occasion, the ball could be clearly seen (albeit via replays, more on this later) exiting the basket, swinging back on itself and over the top of the rim, as stated.

Now, the day and age we live in, you would have thought that all it would have taken was an official review in Secaucus to see the no-call was in fact very wrong, which would then lead to the officials calling it a good basket. However, the game officials didn’t agree, so the call on the floor stood, and with it, the Rockets had once again been denied a call by some very questionable officiating in a game in which the end result ended up being costly.

It would be very wrong to suggest that the remainder of the game had been solely overshadowed by this no-call, as let’s be honest, the Rockets had more than enough time remaining after the incident to secure a win— including two overtime periods. Ultimately though, they didn’t and threw away a big 22-point lead. That said, final result to one side, the Rockets could call upon the league to take some action, and quite rightly so. Here’s why.

To state the obvious:

At the end of the day, the officials made a call that wasn’t correct whatsoever, and with the technology that the league now has, they really should have taken a look given the amount of pressure the Houston bench and coach Mike D’Antoni were putting on them before and during the timeout that followed the play. There is no way that anyone could say that with the amount of questions being asked of them about the call that it wouldn’t have put any kind of doubt in their minds or at least even made them think something wasn’t right.

Something we do know, though, is that Crew Chief that night James Capers gave a post game interview to Pool Reporter Mike Monroe from Athletic and to say it was an absolute farce is an understatement. Conrad summarized this in his post as well, but in case you missed it, here is what Capers had to say about the incident:

Now if that interview alone doesn’t make the league consider the judgement of Capers’ reasoning as to why he didn’t ask to review the play, then something is very wrong. At the end of the day, these guys are more important to the game than the players when it comes to making sure every game is fair and run as smoothly as possible. I can fully respect the fact that we are all only human and mistakes will be made, this mistake, however, was easily avoidable, and the fact that it occurred is almost embarrassing.

THAT Timeout

Prior to the beginning of the season, the NBA announced that all coaches have now been awarded with the right to challenge any call by the officials when and if their respective team feels like the guys in charge have got something wrong or even missed something altogether. In Houston’s case, it’s certainly both, so with that comes the next point, and boy it’s a big one.

After the no call on the basket against Houston, D’Antoni called a snap timeout so that he could argue the case further that the call was in fact wrong. However, officials were not having any of it. With this in mind, D’Antoni decided that he was going to use his brand new coach’s challenge and ask the officials to take another look via replay. However, this too went unnoticed.

The ruling on a coach’s challenge is simple, if a coach feels that he has a case, then he must simply challenge the call to a maximum of 30 second after the incident (Which D’Antoni clearly did). This too is also another point as to why the league must take action.

During the timeout, it can be seen clear as day that D’Antoni was asking to use his coach’s challenge but was not getting anywhere with his request. The Rockets coach was insisting on the call being looked at, yet we didn’t see that happen, why?

When asked about this after the game and in the very same interview as mentioned above, Capers claimed that this was because the challenge came too late. However, when asked about the whole sequence after the game, Coach D’Antoni told us otherwise:

So where does this all lead?

There’s no doubt that the officials have got this call completely wrong and action needs to be taken, with some claiming that Houston should be handed the automatic win, which seems very unlikely and wouldn’t be the correct form of action, anyway. However, there is also a claim that the league should make both teams replay the game, and again this seems very unlikely.

The league could rule that the Rockets and Spurs must replay the last 7:50 of the game, which isn’t without precedent.

Back in the 2008 season, then-NBA Commissioner David Stern ordered that a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat was to be replayed due to the fouling out of then-Heat star Shaquille O’Neal. Granted, it was only 56 seconds of the fourth quarter and the Hawks still won the game without scoring a single point, but for the point of the case we are looking at, a replay of the final 7:50 of the game can happen.

Of course, the replay between the Hawks and Heat isn’t the only time we have seen a game ordered to be replayed by the league. In December 1982, then-NBA Commissioner Larry O’Brien upheld a request from the Spurs for a replay of their game from the previous month against the Los Angeles Lakers in which they lost 137-132 in double overtime.

This occasion saw the final three seconds replayed, as the Spurs were handed the opportunity to right their wrong and claim a 117-114 win in the replay.

O’Brien also upheld a protest in 1978 in a Nets loss to Philadelphia in which the Nets once again lost on the replay.

The moral of the story is that the league has done this before, and they could do it again. Whether it happens or not really does remain to be seen, but for now, we’ll be waiting on the results of the Rockets’ protest.

It seems the right thing to do, but again, will it happen? That’s a decision for Adam Silver to make. It will be interesting to see if he follows in the footsteps of his predecessors.