Houston had been optimistic in the wake of the loss that the NBA office would take action without a protest being necessary. However, sources said the Rockets are leaning toward filing a protest to ensure that the NBA office will have to make a ruling.
NBA rules require a protest to be filed within 48 hours after a game. Sources said the NBA office has started conducting an investigation that could take longer than the 48-hour window.
The Rockets contend that they should either be awarded the win -- because they actually outscored the Spurs in regulation -- or that the final 7 minutes, 50 seconds of the game be replayed at a later date.
League sources, however, scoffed at the suggestion that the Rockets would be awarded the victory.
Harden's breakaway dunk with 7:50 left would have given the Rockets a 103-89 lead. The ball whipped through the net and back over the rim before bouncing off, and the officiating crew mistakenly ruled that Harden missed the dunk and denied Houston coach Mike D'Antoni's attempt to challenge the call.
"When the play happened, Harden goes in for a dunk, and then the ball appears to us to pop back through the net," crew chief James Capers told a pool reporter Tuesday. "When that happens, that is basket interference. To have a successful field goal, it must clear the net. We have since come in here and 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.
"As to could the play have been reviewed, it is a reviewable matter, but you have a window of 30 seconds to challenge the play during that timeout that he had and while they were protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it, that window passed. So therefore, it elapsed, and they were not able to do it."
D'Antoni, who spoke to the media before the pool report was released, had a different account of the referees' explanation immediately after the play.
"I have no idea," D'Antoni said. "I heard that they said the ball hit James and went back through, so it was a goaltend on James. I challenged that, and I didn't get a response. Then another guy said it wasn't a goaltend; it went out of bounds on us. And I said, 'Well, I challenge that.' Can't do that. You know, I don't know, to answer your question. I've got nothing. I can't tell you."
The most recent example of teams replaying part of a game occurred on March 8, 2008, between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks. In the previous game on Dec. 19, the Hawks unofficially won 117-111 in overtime, but the official scorer incorrectly ruled that Shaquille O'Neal fouled out, so they had to replay the final 51.9 seconds when the two teams met next.