The blown call occurred with about 7:50 remaining in regulation of the Spurs' 135-133 win Tuesday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Rockets led 102-89 when Harden came up with a steal, prompting a breakaway. Harden took a few dribbles before elevating above the paint for a one-handed finish.
The ball went through the net before getting caught up and flying back above the rim. It then bounced off the back iron before falling back on the floor. Harden raced back to collect the ball, noticing that officials didn't count the basket. The Rockets star then pleaded to referees that the ball went through the net.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni called a timeout to protest the call, but officials ruled the shot didn't count. Harden went on to make a 3-pointer on the next possession, giving the Rockets a 105-89 advantage with 7:20 remaining.
"I heard they said that the ball hit James and went back through [the net], so it was goaltending against James," D'Antoni told reporters. "So I challenged that. Then I didn't get a response.
"Another guy said it wasn't goaltending, it went out of bounds on us. I said I challenge that. They go 'can't do that.' I don't know. I didn't get an explanation."
The Spurs went on a 10-2 run to close the deficit to eight points after Harden's mishap. San Antonio went on an 8-0 run in the final 1:07 to tie the score at 115-115 and send the game to overtime.
Harden had a game-high 50 points in the loss. He also had nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. Clint Capela had 22 points and 21 rebounds in the loss. Lonnie Walker IV led the Spurs with 28 points. Bryn Forbes scored 25 points in the win. DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds for San Antonio.
Referee crew chief James Capers said after the game that Harden's shot appeared to pop back up through the net. Capers also admitted the shot should have counted.
"When that happens, that is basket interference," Capers said. "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."
Capers said that the play was reviewable, but the Rockets eclipsed the 30 second window for challenging the play.